Last Month's Newsletter


SCHEDULED PROGRAMS        April 2018

The Science of Scat

Thursday, April 26, 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: Serena Rinker, Interpretive Specialist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Location: Visitor Center theater

The Refuge's own Premier Pundit of Poop, Serena Rinker will discuss the serious science of scat and help you become your own skilled scat expert.

Twilight Everglades Tour

Tuesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m. (No Moon)
Tuesday, April 24, 7:00 p.m. (nearly Full Moon)

Experience the unique sights and sounds of the Everglades at night! Meet at the Visitor Center for a guided twilight tour of the Refuge. Try to arrive a little before 7:00 as a courtesy to others. Wear long-sleeved shirt, long pants, good walking shoes with closed toes and heels, and bring a jacket, water, a good flashlight and bug spray. You might also like to bring a hat. Walk is approximately 1 mile.

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Call the Visitor Center at 561-734-8303.

Tram Tours of the Marsh

Every Day except Saturdays, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Take an open-air Tram tour with our volunteer naturalist for a unique view into the wildlife, marshes and cypress swamps of the Refuge. Your guide will talk about the Refuge, its birds and other wildlife, the ongoing research in the mini-Everglades impoundments of LILA, and answer all your questions in the comfort of your shaded electric tram. Meet at the Visitor Center front desk 15 minutes prior to the tour.

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Call the Visitor Center at 561-734-8303.

Early Morning Bird Walks on the Marsh Trail

Every Wednesday, 7:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Join our volunteer naturalist for an early morning bird walk on the Marsh Trail. Meet in the Marsh Trail parking lot. Check out recent sightings from eBird Trail Tracker:
... and view our Bird Checklist:

Roving Naturalist on Cypress Swamp Boardwalk

Every Sunday, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

A volunteer naturalist will be strolling around the Cypress Swamp Boardwalk, answering questions and discussing flora and fauna of the swamp.

Guided Canoe Trips

Every Saturday, 9:00 - 11:15 a.m.

Meet at the Lee Road Boat Ramp to enjoy a beautiful canoe tour through a portion of the Refuge interior. You may rent a canoe for $35 from Loxahatchee Canoeing or bring your own. (One canoe seats 2 to 3 people.)

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Call the Visitor Center at 561-734-8303.

Enjoy this 3-minute video made on the canoe trail:

Moonlight Guided Canoe Trips

Saturday, April 28, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 26, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Meet at the Lee Road Boat Ramp to enjoy a guided moonlight canoe tour through a portion of the Refuge interior. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants and bring a flashlight and bug spray.

Canoe rental from Loxahatchee Canoeing is $35; you may not bring your own. (One canoe seats 2 to 3 people.)


*** Programs subject to change, for more information on any of the activities and programs, please call the Visitor Center at (561) 734-8303.

Events are listed on the Friends website at

Lee Road Cleanup - Volunteers Needed!

Saturday, April 14, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon

Come out and help the Friends pick up litter from the entrance road to the Refuge. The Friends have officially adopted Lee Road from U.S. 441 west to the Refuge gate under the Palm Beach County Adopt-a-Road Litter Control program. Please wear closed-toed shoes, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and bug spray. Meet at the Visitor Center to get your safety vest, plastic gloves and instructions. Water and light snacks provided. Students can receive Community Service hours. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old or accompanied by a parent or guardian. For more information contact Cathy Patterson at or 561-301-5056.

Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group: Palm Beach County Natural Areas

Saturday, April 14, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Speaker: Samantha Corr, Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management
Location: Refuge Visitor Center

All are invited to the monthly meeting of the Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group to learn about the great natural areas around Palm Beach County and the many programs they have to offer. The morning will start at 9:30 a.m. with coffee, tea and a light breakfast on the pavilion behind the Refuge Visitor Center. At 10:15 a.m. in the Visitor Center theater Samantha Corr will present an overall picture of the county's natural areas and the programs developed by the county's Department of Environmental Resources Management. She will share information about their newest outreach initiatives for engaging young people who might not yet have had the opportunity to connect with nature. After the meeting, enjoy a walk around the Refuge boardwalk or trails with one of the Refuge's volunteer tour guides.

Entrance to the Refuge to attend the meeting is free. Mention that you are there to attend the Sierra Club meeting.

35th Annual Photography Contest Reception and Award Presentation

Sunday, May 6, 1:00 p.m.

Join the Friends for our photo contest awards presentation on Sunday, May 6, in the Visitor Center theater. View all of the fabulous entries and afterwards, meet and mingle with the photographers and enjoy wine and cheese, fruit and soft drinks on the Pavilion behind the Visitor Center.

Congratulations to Cathy Patterson, Volunteer of the Year!

Our volunteer appreciation luncheon was held on March 21 in recognition of the many volunteers who make public enjoyment of our Refuge possible. Congratulations to Cathy Patterson, named Volunteer of the Year by Refuge staff. Cathy assists with school groups that come out to learn about the Refuge and the Everglades, conducts tram tours, greets visitors, pulls weeds in the Butterfly Garden and whatever else she finds needs to be done. She is the volunteer coordinator for the Friends' Nature Store and the organizer of our annual photo contest and Lee Road cleanups. Thank you to Cathy and all of our volunteers, without whom the Refuge would not be able to offer the visitor services we all enjoy today!

Nature Store Volunteers Needed!

The Friends are looking for volunteers to work in the Friends' Nature Store in the Visitor Center - please contact Cathy Patterson at

Does Your Group Need a Speaker?

The Refuge is reaching out to our local community with an exciting opportunity. Several experienced Refuge volunteers have formed a Speakers Bureau to provide information and education about the Refuge to local residents. If your group is interested in hosting a speaking engagement, we would be happy to work with you. The presentation is approximately one hour in length and designed for a lay audience. You will learn fascinating facts about Everglades wildlife, plants, and habitats as well as the many recreational and educational opportunities that exist on the Refuge. Programs are free and can be arranged during the day, in the evening, or on weekends. For more information or to schedule a presentation, please call or email Sue Rowe, 207-440-0121, or Steve Henry, 561-735-6021,

Prescribed Burn Performed West of Lake Okeechobee

A 5,000-acre controlled burn was performed on the west side of Lake Okeechobee on Wednesday, in hopes of reducing the amount of available fuel in the marsh. Burning the lake is necessary to keep its ecosystems thriving. As the water pulls back during dry spells, decaying vegetation on the bottom is exposed. That vegetation, when submerged, sucks oxygen from the water, discourages fish spawning and makes it difficult for wading birds to find food. Probably with the same goal in mind, an arsonist had been lighting fires on the dried up rim of the lake, forcing fire fighters to contain those blazes before they spread to parched lands beyond.

2017 Wading Bird Breeding Season Above Average

After heavy rains in early 2016 during what is typically the dry season led to one of the worst breeding seasons in a decade, the drier months of early 2017 led to increased breeding activity of several key "indicator species" like the Wood Stork, as well as the Great Egret and White Ibis. The increase in 2017 can be attributed to that same heavy rainfall that caused the poor nesting activity in 2016. However, those wet conditions in 2016 also increased the populations of prey such as fish that the wading birds feed upon, and the drier conditions in early 2017 concentrated the prey in smaller areas so the birds could feed upon them more easily. (Although sometimes White Ibises do better in years with fewer fish, because crayfish, their preferred prey, don't all get eaten up by the fish!) Not all species had above average breeding years, however. The number of nests started by small herons such as the Snowy Egret and Tricolored Heron continued a decline that has been observed for several years.

The South Florida Wading Bird Report is released annually by the South Florida Water Management District:

The South Florida Environmental Report, also released annually, shows improvements in water quality in the Everglades:

According to this Miami Herald article, the decline in smaller herons may be due in part to the increase in Black-crowned Night Herons that are known to eat their chicks. Another troubling trend is that the wading birds that were once numerous in the southern Everglades and Florida Bay appear to be moving north. The northward migration of Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills, in particular, appears to be tied to rising sea levels, as the water in Florida Bay gets too deep for their legs and bills. Everglades restoration is needed to put more fresh water in the inland habitats where they now nest, to prevent them from becoming marine. Here's the article, but there is a mistake in the second paragraph. According to the annual report, Snowy Egret nests were down, not up, as is acknowledged later in the article...

Plan for Reservoir South of Lake Okeechobee Submitted for Federal Approval

The South Florida Water Management District submitted its plan for federal approval to build the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir as part of the Central Everglades Planning Project last month. The Tentatively Selected Plan is Alternative C240A. Together with other authorized projects, the plan is projected to send an annual average of approximately 370,000 additional acre-feet of clean water south to the Everglades and reduce the number of damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries by 63 percent.

The additional flows south to the Everglades will be treated in a new 6,500-acre Stormwater Treatment Area in combination with existing STAs and Flow Equalization Basins, such as the A-1 FEB, to meet state water quality standards. The new reservoir will store 240,000 acre-feet of water on the 10,100-acre site comprised of the District-owned A-2 parcel and lands to the west as identified in Senate Bill 10 for a total of 350,000 acre-feet of above-ground storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

Because the plan clearly states that the reservoir project will be operated to ensure water quality standards are met, and lays out options for additional water treatment measures if needed, the Everglades Foundation and Audubon Florida have issued statements in support of the plan. In its statement, the Everglades Foundation added, "We must come together and speak as one to ensure Congressional authorization of this vital project."

Florida's Legislative Session Wraps Up

The best news coming out of the Florida Legislature this session is the $100.8 million appropriated for the constellation of programs that comprise Florida Forever, including:

$77 million for environmentally endangered lands (like state parks, wildlife management areas and state forests),
$5.8 million for Rural and Family Lands easements,
$10 million for Florida Communities Trust,
$2 million for Working Waterfronts, and
$6 million for the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program and children's park amenities.

$248.1 million was appropriated for protecting and restoring the Everglades, including:

$111.1 million for implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan,
$64 million for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir (authorized in 2017 by SB 10),
$32 million for the state's Restoration Strategies plan for water quality improvement in the Everglades,
$31 million for northern Everglades projects,
$5 million for agricultural nutrient reduction, and
$5 million for dispersed water storage.

Many good bills died, such as SB 370/HB 1353/HB 7063 that would have dedicated $100 million annually to Florida Forever, and SB 462/HB 237 that would have banned fracking. Many bad bills died as well, including HB 883, that would have weakened checks on sprawling development. Governor Rick Scott surprised environmentalists today by vetoing HB 1149, which would have allowed treated human wastewater to be pumped into the aquifer. In a letter explaining his veto he wrote, "I do not believe that approving HB 1149 is worth risking Floridians' confidence in our existing water quality regulatory system."

The Governor did sign HB7043/SB1402 into law last month as expected, a bill of concern to environmental advocates because it would shift responsibility for Clean Water Act permitting and enforcement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. While the Florida DEP commits to assuming and maintaining the Act's standards for wetland protection, they suggest that additional staff would not be needed to take on this large responsibility.

The websites of 1000 Friends of Florida and Audubon Florida have more details on the bills that they have been tracking:

Water Management District Sues Non-Profit to Keep Transcript of Meeting Secret

South Florida Water Management District officials hired two private legal teams with taxpayer money to fight the release of a transcript from an August meeting regarding a 50-year deal with the mining company Lake Point Restoration. In order to gain approval for rock mining in western Martin County, Lake Point had proposed mining the land for 20 years and then donating the holes to the South Florida Water Management District for storage and treatment areas for Lake Okeechobee overflow.

The deal fell through after concerns were raised by environmentalists, including former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla, and a five-year legal fight ensued. Lake Point sued the District and Martin County in 2013. It also sued Hurchalla, saying she sent misleading emails about the project to Martin County commissioners that caused the company millions of dollars in losses.

After a closed-door session in August of 2017, the District begrudgingly accepted a settlement that forces it to buy 50,000 tons of rubble annually from Lake Point for 15 years, and extends Lake Point's hold on the land from 20 to 50 years. The settlement seemed an "abrupt change in position" to Everglades Law Center attorney Lisa Interlandi, who then filed a public records request for transcripts of the District's closed sessions concerning Lake Point. Instead of responding yes or no as required by Florida's Sunshine Law, the District sued the non-profit Everglades Law Center. The district is now also demanding the Everglades Law Center's membership list, including all contact information for members, and any communication between the center and its members regarding the Lake Point lawsuit.

More Development Proposed for Palm Beach County's Ag Reserve

Two different developers are seeking approval for assisted living facilities to be built in Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve just east of the Refuge. One would be a 235-bed community on Clint Moore Road near Florida's Turnpike and the other a 186-bed community at the northeast corner of Lyons Road and Linton Boulevard. County staff have proposed new guidelines that would allow the facilities to be built, provided the developments be a minimum of 8 acres with another 12 acres purchased for preservation. Commissioners are set to consider those proposals May 2.

County voters in 1999 overwhelmingly agreed to spend $100 million to acquire about 2,400 acres in the Ag Reserve. That purchase, along with development restrictions in the remainder of the Reserve, were intended to preserve the land's viability for farming. The restrictions limited the density of new construction and required preservation land to be set aside for each acre developed but, over the years, commissioners have loosened those development rules.

Conservation Victories in FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill

The omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018 that was passed by Congress and signed into law last month maintained or increased funding for a number of important conservation programs. In the Department of the Interior, programs receiving increased funding include the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. The final bill rejected numerous anti-environmental policy riders, including rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act and removal of its protections for key species, as well as several provisions that would have weakened the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. And Congress rejected the White House budget proposal to zero out funding for the Environmental Protection Agency's regional ecosystem restoration programs. The bill also prevents construction of a border wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Ten Senators Urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Honor Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Late last year the Department of the Interior announced that it would no longer enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in cases of incidental bird deaths. The Act was passed by Congress in 1918 in response to public outcry over the mass slaughter of birds, which threatened egrets and other species with extinction. The law prohibits killing or harming America's birds except under certain conditions, including managed hunting seasons for game species. The law has brought together industry, government and conservation organizations to implement best-management practices such as covering oil pits and flagging transmission lines. It is credited with saving countless birds each year from otherwise needless deaths. Ten U.S. Senators have signed on to a letter urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in a way that protects birds from incidental deaths as well as intentional deaths.

Native Everglades Wildlife No Match for Invasive Burmese Python

Did you hear about the python whose eyes were bigger than its stomach?

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Elinor Williams
Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

"There are no other Everglades in the world." ~Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Celebrate with us, The Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 1982-2018



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