Last Month's Newsletter

ARTHUR R. MARSHALL LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Apologies to all who may have been eagerly awaiting this newsletter or thought we had dropped you from our list. Unforeseen circumstances caused a 4-month hiatus, but with this issue we hope to start back on a regular monthly schedule.

SCHEDULED PROGRAMS        August 2017

Solar Eclipse Canoe Tour

Monday, August 21, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Join us for a paddling experience like no other! Take a guided tour on our Canoe Trail during the August 21st solar eclipse. You might see alligators, anhingas, egrets, herons, and many more species that call the northern Everglades their home. You may rent a canoe for $35 from Loxahatchee Canoeing by calling 561-733-0192 or bring your own. (One canoe seats 2 to 3 people.) Meet at the Lee Road Boat Ramp.

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

Solar Eclipse Tram Tour

Monday, August 21, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Take a Tram tour like no other during the August 21 solar eclipse! 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.

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

Twilight Everglades Tour

Tuesday, August 8, 7:00 p.m. - Full Moon
Tuesday, August 22, 7:00 p.m. - New Moon

Meet at the Visitor Center for a guided twilight tour of the Everglades. 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. Must be 18 years or older.

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

Tram Tours of the Marsh

Monday, August 7, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Every Wednesday, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Thursday, August 10, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Take a Tram tour of the marsh with our volunteer naturalist, who will take you from the Visitor Center to the boat ramp to the LILA impoundments, then back through the C10 impoundment and the Marsh Trail, across to the Arthur R. Marshall kiosk and back to the Visitor Center. 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.

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

Roving Naturalist on Cypress Swamp Boardwalk

Tuesday, August 8, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 22, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday, September 12, 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

Saturday, August 12, 9:00 - 11:15 a.m.
Saturday, August 26, 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: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW49VXaOvGU&feature=related

Full Moon Guided Canoe Trips

Saturday, August 5, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 2, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Friday, October 6, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 4, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 2, 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.)

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED - PLEASE CALL LOXAHATCHEE CANOEING at 561-733-0192.

*** 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 www.loxahatcheefriends.com/events/events.shtml

Audubon Society of the Everglades: Photos and Ice Cream Social

Tuesday, August 8, 6:30 p.m.
Location: Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, 6301 W. Summit Blvd, West Palm Beach, Rooms 101 and 102

Make your own ice cream sundae! Followed by a picture show at the monthly meeting of the Audubon Society of the Everglades. Bring your best nature photos and tell your stories!

The meeting is free and open to the public. For more information visit www.auduboneverglades.org or contact Paton White at 561-818-7574 or prwase@gmail.com.

Lee Road Cleanup - Volunteers Needed!

Saturday, September 16, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

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. We may also be working in the pollinator gardens, pulling weeds and trimming. 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. T shirts are provided as well, while supplies last. Students can receive Community Service hours. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old or accompanied by a parent or guardian. In case of inclement weather the make up day will be the following Saturday, September 23. For speedier registration, you can fill out the registration form in advance:
www.loxahatcheefriends.com/upload/LoxCleanupGAC17Indivregis.pdf

For more information or to pre-order a T-shirt, contact Cathy Patterson at 561-301-5056 or capatterson51@gmail.com.

8th Annual Juried Art Contest - Loxahatchee Visions

Entries accepted: Sunday, October 29 to Saturday, November 4
Reception and Award Presentation: Sunday, November 12, 1:00 p.m.

The contest is open to all artists. Each artist may submit one or two works of art, inspired by "Loxahatchee Visions." Any media or mixed media may be used, with the exception of photography. (Save your photographs for next year's photo contest!) Each entry must be framed and ready for hanging. Wrapped canvas edges are fine. Size limit is 36" on each side, including frame.

Prizes will be awarded in 2 categories - Novice (to age 18) and Adult (age 18 and older).
First prize - $250; Second prize - $150; Third prize - $100.

The entry fee is $10 for Friends members, volunteers and Refuge staff, and $25 for non-members. The fee is waived for Novices. Bring your artwork along with the entry form and entry fee in an envelope labeled "Friends Art Contest" to the Visitor Center.

For the Contest Entry Form and the complete set of rules, go to:
www.loxahatcheefriends.com/upload/Lox2017ArtContestForm.pdf

2017 Photography Contest Awards

A belated thank you to all who entered our annual photography contest, to our distinguished judges from the Everglades Photographic Society, and especially to Cathy Patterson, Jay Paredes, Rick Schofield and the other volunteers whose hard work made this contest possible!

And the winners are:

Best in Show: Ruth Pannunzio - Red-shouldered Hawks
Artistic: 1st - Meg Puente - Egret at Dawn; 2nd - Meg Puente - Dreamy Doe; 3rd - Jim LaRocco - Done for the Day (Canoes); Honorable Mention: John Siegel - White Water Lily, Lauren VanArman - Infinity Hearts, Susan Wasserman - Hawk Eye
Avian: 1st - Frank Silverman - Turkey Vulture; 2nd - Jo Ann Ricchiuti - Woodpecker & Flying Sawdust; 3rd - Linda Fleischman - Great Horned Owl; Honorable Mention: Jo Ann Ricchiuti - Limpkin Heading Across the Wetlands, Ruth Pannunzio - Blue Jay, Ruth Pannunzio - Smooth-billed Anis
Fauna: 1st - Meg Puente - Young Buck & His Doe; 2nd - Barry Willette - Male Bobcat; 3rd - Arthur Jacoby - Race to the Top (Grasshoppers); Honorable Mention: Harvey Mendelson - Alligator, Ruth Pannunzio - Squirrel, Steven Schwartz - Raccoon Platoon
Flora: 1st - Kathleen Fosselman - Starburst (Tasselflower); 2nd - Jeremy Raines - Spider Lilies Up Close; 3rd - Denise Valentin - Lily & Lilypad; Honorable Mention: Bryan Rollins - White Water Lily, Grace Clarke - Sky Flowers (Elderberry), Kathleen Fosselman - Lizard's Tail;
Landscapes: 1st - Jo Ann Ricchiuti - Sunset Across the Refuge; 2nd - Susan Wasserman - Silhouette at Sunset; 3rd - Meg Puente - Cypress Gallery; Honorable Mention: Arthur Jacoby - Morning Mist, Barry Willette - Rainbow Over Marsh, Meg Puente - Sunrise Over Marsh Trail
Youth: 1st - Dion Sellitti - Purple Passion Flower; 2nd - Noah Kersten - An Apple Snail a Day (Limpkin); 3rd - Claire Mierau - Curious Pileated Woodpecker; Honorable Mention: Gia Clarke-Rubin - Smokey, Dion Sellitti - Home Sweet Home (Wasps), Dion Sellitti - White Peacock Butterfly

The winning photographs are on display in the Visitor Center auditorium and available for sale. All of the photos can be viewed on our website at: http://loxahatchee.smugmug.com/Contest-Photo/Photo-Contest-2017

Refuge Manager Featured in Boynton Forum

Sun Sentinel reporter Jan Engoren interviewed Refuge Manager Rolf Olson about the Refuge, its claims to fame and its challenges in this recent Boynton Forum article and accompanying video...
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/boynton-beach/fl-bbf-manager-0705-20170704-story.html

Everglades Tranquility Right on Your Doorstep!

Yoga teacher Julie Murphy recommends the Refuge as "an easily accessible hit of outdoor bliss" in Today's Yoga Magazine...
www.todaysyoga.com/communities_of_interest/boomers_and_seniors/nature-as-your-sacred-yoga-studio/article_e6ee32a0-1f90-11e7-ba70-b7933253ce3a.html

Students Raising Native Apple Snails

Local elementary school students are raising native Florida apple snails in their classrooms to eventually release them in natural wetland areas like the Refuge as part of the Apple Snail Adoption Program. The program is a partnership between the Refuge and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the Florida Atlantic University Pine Jog Environmental Education Center and Grassy Waters Preserve. The endangered Snail Kite feeds almost exclusively on apple snails, but the native ones are being out-competed by non-native ones.
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/boynton-beach/fl-bbf-snail-0531-20170530-story.html

Latest Issue of Gator Tales

The Friends' most recent issue of Gator Tales features our winning art contest entries, Howard Bernstein's anecdote on one of his guided night walks and Peggy VanArman's observations on survival rates for ongoing cypress tree restoration efforts on the Refuge. Check it out online - the front page looks much better than in print! The background definitely lost something in the printing.
www.loxahatcheefriends.com/gator_tales/2017_spring.pdf

Bird Walk Bird Counts

Rick Schofield, who leads the early morning bird walks on Wednesdays from November through April, has been reporting monthly counts of all the species they've found on eBird. Here's what they found here at the Refuge from November, 2016 through April, 2017:
www.loxahatcheefriends.com/upload/Loxahatchee-eBirdYearlyReport2016-2017.pdf

Sportsmen's Alliance Partner with Refuge Staff for Earth Day

Check out the work that members of the Florida Sportsmen's Conservation Alliance did along with Refuge staff to remove an obsolete research site from the Refuge interior for Earth Day. Lots of photos set to a catchy Everglades tune...
flipagram.com/f/17fyrP9y5Xy

These Glades Are Your Glades

Check out Dr. Tom Poulson's ode to the Everglades in this music video he made with the help of a few friends...
www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5dB6NfWKDs&feature=youtu.be

Friends Receive Friends Group of the Year Award!

Our Friends organization was recently named Friends Group of the Year for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service! Regional Director Cynthia Dohner presented the award at a ceremony in Atlanta on May 11, with Friends President Elinor Williams accepting it on behalf of the Friends. Here's the writeup from the awards program:

The Friends of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge have been leaders in ensuring the future of the Refuge by advocating with local, state, and federal officials for the continuation of a licensing agreement that allows for management of a majority of the Refuge waters; and by seeking additional funding for exotic plant control. They provide support and funding for events, such as the annual Everglades Day Festival and National Public Lands Day. Recently, they funded a Refuge biologist for six months to assist with important work that otherwise could not have been accomplished. The Friends Group has reached thousands of people through their involvement in the Refuge's outreach and education programs and has advanced achievement of the Refuge's conservation mission through their support of the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program, Connecting People with Nature, and the restoration of wildlife habitat.

Refuge Loses Regional Director, Budget Cuts Looming

The Department of the Interior has begun their promised personnel realignment, with notices sent to several senior executive service employees. Six of these key positions were within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Regional Director of the Southeast Region, Cynthia Dohner, to whom our Refuge reports. Cindy had been actively involved in discussions with the South Florida Water Management District about how to deal with the ongoing problems of invasive exotic plants like lygodium - Old World climbing fern - on the Refuge. Cindy and the others impacted by the realignment were directed to move to other positions in other Bureaus without advance notice.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association urges all of us who care about our National Wildlife Refuges to ask your Congressional representatives not to slash funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System. President Trump's proposed FY '18 budget calls for a 12% cut, or $1.5 billion, to the Department of the Interior. If this cut were evenly applied to all Interior programs, it would slash $58 million from the National Wildlife Refuge System's already meager budget of $481.4 million, which funds the management of more than 850 million acres across 566 National Wildlife Refuges in every state in the Union.

The Refuge System's budget is already down 20% from FY10 levels, and if Congress were to pass the proposed budget into law, Refuges would close, access for hunters, fishers, and birders would be lost, and volunteer programs would be terminated, while wildlife management efforts like habitat restoration and invasive species removal would proceed only at the bare minimum.

To contact your U.S. Senators and Representative, you can go to NWRA's action page:
refugeassociation.org/action/#/73

In a bit of good news for the National Wildife Refuge System, a bill reauthorizing the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program passed the Senate. This program is one of the Fish and Wildlife Service's best conservation tools for working with partners such as private landowners, tribes, schools, conservation groups and local, state and federal agencies. The partners voluntarily agree to maintain improvement projects on their lands while retaining full control of their land. The WILD Act (S. 826) boosts authorized funding levels for the Partners Program from $75 million to $100 million and extends authorization for the program through FY22.

Water Resources Bill S.B. 10 Authorizes Reservoir South of Lake Okeechobee

The Florida legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed into law Senate Bill 10, a major Water Resources bill that authorizes a reservoir to be built in the Everglades Agricultural Area to hold polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, with the aim of sparing coastal communities from toxic algae blooms and fish kills. The reservoir won't be as big as the one initially proposed by Senate President Joe Negron. It will be built on 15,000 acres of mostly state-owned land and will hold 240,000 acre feet or about 78 billion gallons of water that would turn over a few times a year - a total substantially less than what's dumped from Lake Okeechobee during heavy rainy seasons.

The original plan had called for 360,000 acre feet of shallower water storage on 60,000 acres of land. That type of storage could have cleaned the water from the lake before sending it south to other Stormwater Treatment Areas and into the Everglades. As it is, more land will be needed to clean the water.

The state will pay half the cost while the rest is supposed to come from the federal government, so Congress must approve the project. And both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District must agree on a construction plan. The current plan calls for building the reservoir on the A-2 parcel - land south of the Everglades Agricultural Area that the state currently leases to sugar grower Florida Crystals; the lease expires March 2018.

The legislation contains several deadlines for the District to meet. The first major step over the next six months will be deciding where the reservoir's "footprint" will be. The next step will be acquiring more land through a combination of swaps, purchases and ending other leases to farmers. The legislation does not allow land to be taken by eminent domain. Possibilities include a 3,500-acre parcel immediately west of the A-2 site that's mostly state-owned, with about 500 acres of private land, and a portion of a 16,557-acre parcel immediately to the east of A-2 that's currently being used as a shallow reservoir to clean water coming off the farm fields.
www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/politics/2017/06/06/negron-pop-up/370785001/
www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/carl-hiaasen/article148964414.html
livesite-prd-2.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-smaller-south-florida-reservoir-still-worth-the-effort/2322911
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/fla-senate-oks-reservoir-plan-lessen-algae/WGXKqBVYcbnBBK9fGeP5vO/
www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article144229454.html
www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/editorials/fl-editorial-everglades-reservoir-compromise-sb10-20170406-story.html

The South Florida Water Management District has a new web page to track the progress of the new reservoir:
sfwmd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=4d9807e424894aec9e9c1f74d323f17e

Melissa Meeker, former executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, and others caution that the reservoir is not the total solution to Everglades restoration or to the pollution problems caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
www.indystar.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/05/29/0530-meeker/348597001/
events.tbo.com/news/environment/against-all-odds-florida-legislature-approves-lake-o-reservoir-bill-next/2322957

Local Congressmen File Bills to Speed Up Everglades Restoration

Florida Senator Bill Nelson teamed with Representative Alcee Hastings and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart to propose the Everglades for the Next Generation Act. The bill would allow long-planned, construction-ready Everglades projects such as reservoirs, stormwater treatment areas and other Everglades restoration projects to proceed without waiting five to seven years for Congressional approval of the next major water bill.
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-everglades-congressional-help-proposed-20170601-story.html
ux.tcpalm.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/25/lake-okeechobee-reservoir-could-happen-quicker-under-bill/346070001/

Representative Brian Mast filed a different bill to expedite the newly approved reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. It directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite work on reports needed for projects to increase water storage around Lake Okeechobee and minimize discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, and the harmful algal blooms they can cause. His bill is called the Everglades FIRST Act - Flow Increases Rely on Storage and Treatment.
www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2017/05/08/us-rep-brian-mast--lake-okeechobee-corps-of-engineers/101432252/
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-reg-everglades-reservoir-delay-20170726-story.html

Florida Legislature Seeks to Speed Up Lake Okeechobee Dike Repairs

Florida Governor Rick Scott proposed spending state money to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee as a way to store more water in the lake rather than having to discharge it into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and Estuaries when high water levels threaten the aging dike. The discharges have been blamed for toxic algae blooms that threaten aquatic life and human health and devastate the economies of coastal communities. Despite concern that the state would not be able to recoup the money from the federal government, or that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would even allow higher lake levels once the repairs are made given the flooding and environmental concerns, or that the amount of money proposed would actually speed up repairs, nevertheless, the governor succeeded in getting the legislature to appropriate $50 million for dike repairs.
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/florida-gov-rick-scott-sees-lake-okeechobee-dike-algae-solution/jaMxIfj8ycM8q0zPQnlmYN/
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-lake-okeechobee-money-legislature-20170614-story.html
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/scott-offers-surprise-solution-lake-okeechobee-pollution-fight/T581bOQdly9wiImY1PeASJ/

Florida Legislature Defunds Florida Forever Land-Buying Program

In its final 2017-2018 budget, the Florida Legislature completely defunded the state's major land protection program Florida Forever, while the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, a program that pays farmers not to develop their land, received $10 million. Senate President Joe Negron acknowledged that the Legislature needs to better heed the will of the voters who voted to pass Amendment 1 in 2014 to set aside money for land conservation. He said that next year, when he serves his last session as Senate president, he will focus on giving more money to Florida Forever. He did claim progress made in the bill passed last year that dedicated Amendment 1 money for Everglades restoration. This year's budget includes $203 million for the Everglades, estuaries and Lake Okeechobee, not including the $33 million appropriated in Senate Bill 10 for acquiring land or negotiating leases and project planning for the new reservoir. It also shifts funding for the removal of septic tanks and other programs to General Revenue rather than continuing to use Amendment 1 funds.
www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/politics/2017/06/06/negron-pop-up/370785001/
www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/rural-lands-program-running-low-on-cash/2324522

For a summary of environmental bills that passed and those that failed during this year's legislative session, go to 1000 Friends of Florida's website:
www.1000friendsofflorida.org/2017-florida-legislative-session/

Rains Trigger Emergency Pumping South into Everglades and North into Lake Okeechobee

June's torrential rains quenched Florida's drought, but sparked a tragic battle for survival in the Everglades with officials forced to choose which animals would live and which would die. With rising water in western Broward and Miami-Dade counties threatening the high ground needed for deer, panthers, wading birds and other wildlife to survive, state water managers pressed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lift federal restrictions on how much water can enter Everglades National Park at this time of year. The restrictions are intended to protect the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, which nests in the potential path of the water.

In late June federal officials relented, allowing emergency pumping south into Everglades National Park, saying that even though opening the flood gates before mid-July likely would drown nests with eggs and chicks, the risk of rising waters to the levees that keep South Florida communities dry outweighed the needs of the birds. Concerns about the rising waters also triggered emergency pumping north into Lake Okeechobee, despite the risk of sending fertilizers and other pollutants into the lake.

As the situation unfolded, numerous articles pointed to the urgency of speeding up Everglades restoration, including the newly approved reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee...
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/weather/recent-rains-causing-tragic-battle-for-survival-everglades/2uU6DMA9ZzVSfwnzJckxoL/
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-everglades-pumping-changes-20170627-story.html
weatherplus.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2017/06/27/update-flood-gates-can-now-open-into-endangered-sparrow-territory/
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-everglades-flooding-lake-okeechobee-pumping-20170626-story.html
www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/07/06/our-view-back-pumping-into-lake-o-underscores-need-reservoir/451477001/
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-lake-okeechobee-emergency-pumping-stops-20170706-story.html

Algae Bloom Spreads Across Lake Okeechobee After Backpumping

An algae bloom spreading across Lake Okeechobee has reached from areas near Moore Haven on the west side to Pahokee on the east. It emerged after state officials from June 24 to July 5 pumped more than 9 billion gallons of potentially polluted water into the lake from the south to lessen South Florida flooding threats. That water carried fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants that washed off farms and urban areas into the lake, which already collects pollution draining from Central Florida. And, in a move that hasn't been made since 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is letting Martin County's St. Lucie Canal - the C-44 - run into Lake Okeechobee from the east. It's a reverse of what happened last summer where water from the lake went through the canal into the St. Lucie estuary, fueling a toxic, green ooze that fouled waters near Stuart, killing fish and other aquatic life and making waterways unsafe for fishing and swimming.
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/weather/large-algae-bloom-forms-lake-could-see-repeat-2016/aYc1Gvv6NSV9CGc8JUXCyK/
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-lake-okeechobee-algae-bloom-concerns-20170731-story.html

Lawsuit Claiming Clean Water Act Violations Dismissed

A federal appeals court in June upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed more than a decade ago by several environmental groups, including the Florida Wildlife Federation. The suit alleged that the U.S. Army Corps violated the U.S. Clean Water Act and Florida law, claiming that decisions made in releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River were aggravating salt water intrusion and triggering toxic algae outbreaks. The court determined that controlling lake releases for water supply is a right and authority of the state, not the Corps, and that not only must the South Florida Water Management District be a party in the lawsuit, but that it enjoys sovereign immunity from the suit in such proceedings in federal court, and so the lawsuit must be dismissed.
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-reg-caloosahatchee-case-20170619-story.html

FIU Joins Effort to Save Florida Bay

Florida International University has entered into a contract with the South Florida Water Management District to monitor the impacts of a large-scale construction project designed to save Florida Bay. District crews are completing the project, which will use several pump stations, detention areas and canals to move more fresh water into Taylor Slough, which connects to Florida Bay. The project is designed to reduce the bay's salinity level, which has risen in recent years due largely to localized droughts. The increased salinity has been devastating for the bay's seagrass beds, and the aquatic life and the fishing and tourism industries that depend on them.
news.fiu.edu/2017/07/research-team-selected-to-monitor-plan-that-could-save-florida-bay/113394
www.floridasportsman.com/2017/06/07/florida-seagrass-update/
www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article143226484.html
www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article90896747.html

SFWMD Executive Director Threatens to Stop Cooperating with Scientific Board Before Leaving Agency

The South Florida Water Management District has a new executive director. Ernie Marks, who came to the South Florida Water Management District last year as director of Everglades policy and coordination, is replacing Peter Antonacci in the position. Antonacci, who is taking over as CEO of Enterprise Florida, recently threatened to stop cooperating with a scientific board that advises Congress about Everglades restoration because he said it had become too concerned about legal and budgeting matters at the expense of science. While the scientists believe plans for Everglades restoration may need to be updated to reflect climate change, state agencies like the District believe holding up plans already in motion may mean nothing gets done at all. The independent board of scientists was mandated by the 2000 federal law that created the Central Everglades Restoration Plan, the series of reservoirs and other developments meant to restore the flow of water through the Everglades after decades of draining and development.
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-water-district-leader-20170731-story.html
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/everglades-specialist-marks-replace-antonacci-sfwmd-director/ds6L7Yh8bFY3aEahSu6dCP/
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-everglades-science-fight-20170713-story.html
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/florida-politics-blog/fl-reg-antonacci-science-board-20170717-story.html

More Development Proposed for Palm Beach County's Ag Reserve

A new proposal would put more than 2,000 homes in the Agricultural Reserve, a 21,000-acre farming region west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach between the Refuge and Florida's Turnpike. More than 7,000 homes have been built there and about 3,200 more are planned. GL Homes is proposing to shift some of the 3,897 homes approved to be built in rural Loxahatchee and the Acreage at Indian Trails Grove to three plots of land it owns in the Ag Reserve. Such a move would require changes to rules in the Ag Reserve, which require builders to set aside 60 acres in the reserve for every 40 they wish to develop there. While GL's plan has been embraced by Acreage/Loxahatchee residents eager to see less development in their own area, south county residents - led by the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations - have mounted a campaign against it. The Palm Beach County Soil and Water Conservation District also opposes it, while the Indian Trail Improvement District supports it. GL doesn't plan to approach the county formally until December, when it makes a presentation to the Planning Commission. County commissioners could be asked to consider the plan in January. In 1999 Palm Beach County voters overwhelmingly approved spending $100 million to purchase 2,400 acres in the Ag Reserve in order to preserve the land for farming and environmental protection.
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-new-home-boom-20170519-story.html
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local-govt--politics/soil-and-water-conservation-district-opposes-homes-reserve-plan/5gosmHJnEB5hNAAMi58rFN/
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local-govt--politics/homes-wants-move-giant-project-from-acreage-reserve/NjZDgelHu9lAhQPlACZwyN/
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local-govt--politics/alderman-farms-boss-sounds-like-backs-homes-plan-for-reserve/SCWkGSI60OvC7VwnGUzOwM/

Another proposed development in the Ag Reserve was voted down by the county commission on July 26, despite the developer's offer to include the type of affordable housing that county officials say is critically needed. The Morning Star development would have been built on 51 acres on the northeast corner of Atlantic Avenue and Starkey Road, west of the Turnpike. Developers were proposing a 130-room hotel, a 115-bed assisted-living center, 75,000 square feet of retail space and a 360-unit apartment building, including 144 price-capped units. In exchange for the 144 lower-cost workforce housing units, the developer was seeking a project-specific exemption from the Ag Reserve rule that requires six acres to be preserved for every four that are developed.
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-workforce-housing-denied-20170726-story.html
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local-govt--politics/affordable-housing-loses-reserve-rules-win-commission-votes/XxfeNguqOrSQFrnNVkWnQM/
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/local-govt--politics/county-needs-affordable-housing-should-protected-land-used/ijqJlO3tQJcj31YqrMBweJ/
www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-column-randy-schultz-ag-reserve-20170725-story.html

This was not the first development in recent memory that county commissioners actually voted down in western Palm Beach County. That distinction probably belongs to the Iota Carol project in the Acreage. In April, on a vote of 5-2, commissioners turned down a request to change the county's comprehensive plan to accommodate the Iota Carol/Delray Linton Groves project, which called for the construction of 1,030 homes on 1,288 acres west of the Acreage in the northwest area of the county. The two newest county commissioners, who have been less willing to back development projects than their predecessors, voted with the majority in rejecting the project.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local-govt--politics/palm-beach-county-board-rejects-development-project-near-the-acreage/4F7fBLg78oD2XVT8fL6UhL/
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/local-govt--politics/county-smooths-way-for-western-development-with-zoning-framework/FfxPWoV3hoowVIxdgy3oXN/

In the proposed county budget that would go into effect October 1, commissioners have included $3 million to begin a three-year, $9 million process to reacquire full ownership of a 571-acre tract of land in the Ag Reserve that the county originally purchased in 2000 using public bond money approved by voters to encourage land preservation and agriculture. The tract was part of the former McMurrain Farms operation west of State Road 7 that is now farmed by the Pero family. A 61 percent stake in the property was sold to the South Florida Water Management District by the county in 2006 for $13.7 million. Because the district's plans for constructing a reservoir on it have since changed, it told the county earlier this year it wanted the land sold. That raised fears that private ownership of the land would open the door to its eventual development, even if the buyer were the Pero farming family, which currently leases it for agriculture. While two commissioners argued that trusting the county to resist development pressures on the land would be riskier and more expensive to taxpayers than selling the land to farmers with conservation easements on it, the majority disagreed. Conservation easements would theoretically make future development difficult, but time and again we have seen commissioners lift those development restrictions with a simple majority vote.
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/buyback-conservation-zone-near-boynton-lauded-environmentalists/gpIw09xiTya5nryVm43paJ/
www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/commentary/fl-op-mcmurrain-development-20170714-story.html

State of the Everglades Report

Here's the latest State of the Everglades Report from Audubon Florida:
fl.audubon.org/sites/g/files/amh666/f/audubon_fl_state_of_the_everglades_spring_2017_report.pdf

Manatee Downlisted from Endangered to Threatened

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cited "notable increases in manatee populations and improvements to its habitat" in its decision to change the species' status under the Endangered Species Act from endangered to threatened this spring. With manatee deaths on the rise from a variety of threats, including watercraft collisions, habitat loss and red tide, the decision is opposed by a bipartisan group of 11 Florida Congressional representatives who have asked Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to overturn it.
protectingyourpocket.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2017/04/13/florida-congressmen-ask-interior-secretary-to-reverse-manatee-decision/
protectingyourpocket.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2017/03/30/feds-downlist-floridas-w-indian-manatee-from-endangered-to-threatened/
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-manatee-season-2016-20161117-story.html

Florida Panther's Endangered Species Protection Under Review

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment about reviewing the Florida panthers' endangered species protections until August 29. This review comes at a time when panther deaths on Florida roads are outpacing the number of documented panther births. Biologists estimate that only 230 or fewer Florida panthers remain.
www.tampabay.com/news/environment/wildlife/feds-want-public-comment-on-plan-to-develop-panther-habitat/2272868
www.orlandosentinel.com/fl-op-florida-panthers-endangered-status-20170721-story.html
www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-florida-panther-endangered-defenders-of-wildlife-interview-20170725-story.html

If you would like to express your opinion about the possible downlisting of protections for the Florida panther, email david_shindle@fws.gov or send a letter to the U.S. Wildlife Service at 12085 State Road 29 South, Immokalee, FL 34142.

Python Hunters Remove More than One Hundred Pythons from the Everglades

Python hunters working for the South Florida Water Management District had caught and removed 102 invasive pythons from the Everglades in 53 days as of mid-May. With no natural predators, pythons have been wreaking havoc on the native animals of the Everglades.
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-reg-python-hunt-update-20170511-story.html
www.mypalmbeachpost.com/weather/nearly-foot-snake-caught-paid-python-hunt/IX6INP5hEqf4dwjyubORoJ/
campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1117910826311&ca=14599ae1-a179-46b9-80ef-d1002bcdfe9e

State of Florida Looking to Get More Folks Outdoors

The number of people buying hunting and fishing licenses hasn't kept pace with population growth in the state. Those license fees finance wildlife conservation efforts, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is concerned that could impact the future management of public lands.
www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-fewer-hunters-anglers-20170711-story.html

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Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
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"There are no other Everglades in the world." ~Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Celebrate with us, The Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 1982-2017

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