A legal swamp – for Earth Firster & Aligators in the Everglades

Florida Swamp Liberation Update: Stevie Lowe Out on Appellate Bond

Our friend and fellow activist Stevie Lynn Lowe has been given an excessively harsh jail sentence in Martin County, FL after battling the Energy Empire out here in the swamps.

Stevie, along with seventeen other Earth First! activists, was arrested in January of this year for locking herself to a tree within one of Florida’s last remaining old-growth swamps, the Barley Barber. On that day, Stevie Lowe waded through alligator territory, climbed a swamp maple in the heart of the swamp and took her stand to take back the forest from Florida Power & Light (FPL). Now she is wading through the more murky and inhospitable bile of the legal system.

The Barley Barber swamp is composed of thousand year old cypress trees which FPL has “owned” since the 1970’s. The areas they haven’t flooded, drained, or clear-cut are a wild and rich swamp habitat. It is a primordial remnant of what was once a vast cypress forest. The old growth bald cypress trees are comparable to the sequoias of the northwest. Several are over a thousand years old, and one has a circumference of more than 33 feet. It hosts prehistoric ferns, and a large array of animals such as otters, bobcats and bald eagles. Florida Panthers have also been spotted in the area.

With help from the scientific community, Everglades Earth First! found that the 3705 megaWatt Martin Plant (currently the largest fossil fuel power plant in the United States) had withdrawn so much water from the aquifer below the swamp that the soil was being sucked below the root systems of the trees: this is known as soil subsidence and hydro-period disruption. Everglades Earth First! (EEF) tried for over a year to get Florida Power and Light (FPL) to give a guided tour of the swamp and/or to allow us to bring an independent biologist to Barley Barber. This would allow public scrutiny and more transparency in terms of what their power plant is doing to the swamp and to the drinking water sources of the adjacent community of Martin County, FL. The energy corporation (FPL) has had rights to the swamp since the 70’s and the underlying threat is that they are using the swamp and the community’s drinking water sources to cool their power plant equipment.

Stevie and our friends were trying to bring attention to these issues and our urgency is based on the fact that FPL is killing this swamp and polluting this community. She was the only one among those arrested to take this case to trial. Nine arrestees saw their charges dropped. Several pled out, getting less than 20 days for the assumption of guilt for both charges: trespassing and resisting arrest without violence. On July 23rd Stevie was found innocent of trespassing by the jury (the state prosecution failed to prove that this swamp even belongs to FPL a claim which EEF! has always disputed) but was found guilty of resisting arrest without violence. Even though she was found innocent of the charge for which she was originally arrested and even though “resisting arrest without violence” is a petty misdemeanor, the judge made an example of Stevie with an excessive sentence. Considering that some folks got as few as 2 days in jail for pleading out, we consider Stevie’s 90 day sentence also to be a punishment for her having used her constitutional right to hold a trial. We quickly raised and borrowed the ten grand necessary for her release pending her appeal but now must raise funds to pay that back and to fund her legal defense. The struggle towards preservation of wildlife is a difficult task to undertake. Support is always appreciated whether it is chained to the trees or in the courts. To get involved or to donate to our legal support fund visit www.evergladesearthfirst.org