A man who championed Everglades restoration and inspired decades of Florida conservationists died Wednesday during a fishing trip, according to his family.
Nathaniel "Nat" Reed, 84, founded the watchdog environment group 1,000 Friends of Florida and served as a deputy secretary of the Interior Department under the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations, among other positions in and out of the government. He successfully led a campaign against a massive airport in Big Cypress Swamp, co-wrote the Endangered Species Act, and helped win bipartisan support for Everglades restoration.
"[Reed's] encouragement to do what is right and never give up has inspired generations of conservationists, including myself," wrote Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, where Reed was on the board of directors for 25 years. "What he gave to America’s Everglades is beyond measure."
Reed died after falling and sustaining a head injury on an annual summer fishing trip to Canada. His son told the Tampa Bay Times he'd just landed a 16-pound salmon.
Reed "was something you just don't see anymore," Jim Murley, Miami-Dade County chief resilience officer and the first executive director of 1,000 Friends of Florida, told the Miami Herald. Murley noted that Reed led a movement to buy land for conservation, setting the stage for the Florida Forever Act and Amendment 1. That program, which received the support of 75 percent support of Florida voters in 2014, puts aside tax revenue to protect land and water in the state.
"In addition to a clear-eyed focus on solutions, Nat was also a patient teacher. He mentored several generations of conservationists in their formative years," Julie Wraithmell, director of Audubon Florida, wrote in a press release. "Through them, as well as the Everglades Snail Kites, Roseate Spoonbills, Bald Eagles, and Florida Grasshopper Sparrows of the Greater Everglades, Nat's legacy will live on."
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson proposed naming a new reservoir that's to be built south of Lake Okeechobee in Reed's honor.