Last Month's Newsletter

ARTHUR R. MARSHALL LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Prescribed Burn Scheduled May 13 - 24

Refuge staff are planning to conduct a prescribed burn for hazardous fuel reduction from Monday, May 13 through Friday, May 24. Depending on cooperative weather conditions, approximately 30,000 acres in the very south end of the Refuge will be burned. There is a possibility of the Hillsboro Area entrance being closed during this time period. Smoke will be readily visible from areas in southern Palm Beach County, western Boca Raton, northern Broward County, and Parkland. With the prescribed wind direction smoke should not impact these areas. All smoke will move out over the Refuge and dissipate rapidly as it moves to the west. Fuel type, fuel moisture, relative humidity, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and other atmospheric conditions are always taken into consideration first to ensure a safe and successful burn.

Refuge fire management staff will conduct the burns with assistance from fire staff at other refuges located throughout South Florida and in cooperation with the Florida Division of Forestry and Palm Beach County Fire and Rescue. The objectives of the Fire Management Program are to reduce vegetation that could fuel uncontrolled wildfires, in order to protect private property and human lives, as well as endangered and threatened plant and animal species, and to maintain habitat and biological diversity in fire-maintained plant communities.

SCHEDULED PROGRAMS        May 2019

Everglades Tram Tours

Every Saturday, Sunday, Monday & Wednesday, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 28, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 23 & 30, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Friday, May 17 & 24, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Grab your camera and binoculars and enjoy the Refuge on an approximately 1.5 to 2-hour tram tour. The open-air tram can seat 5 passengers and provides 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.

Photography Tours

Every Sunday, 7:15 a.m.

Explore, learn, enjoy, and record the natural resources and biological treasures of the Refuge with award-winning photographers Dr. Peter Lekos and Lora Lekos on an early morning photography tour. Reservations are required because space is limited to give personal attention to each photographer. Meet at the Marsh Trail parking lot near the gazebo.

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

English/Portuguese Nature Walks

Every Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Join bilingual (English/Portuguese) volunteer naturalist Leandro Bauer to stroll around the Visitor Center, Cypress Swamp Boardwalk, and Marsh Trail. He will be answering questions and discussing the plants and wildlife that live here at the Refuge. Meet at the Visitor Center.

Roving Wildlife Photographer

Every Saturday, 9:30 a.m.

Take a guided walking tour of some of our most beautiful spots in the Refuge. View and photograph wildlife in its natural settings with our volunteer roving photographer, Ira Rappaport. Ira will show you areas where some of the most recent sightings of wildlife have been reported and other locations that might make for great photo opportunities. Bring water, comfortable closed-toe shoes or sneakers, a hat to block the sun, sun screen lotion, binoculars, and your camera. The tour can be from 3-5 miles. Meet at the Visitor Center.

Roving Naturalist

Tuesday, May 14 & 28, 12:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

A volunteer naturalist will be strolling around the Visitor Center, Cypress Swamp Boardwalk and Marsh Trail, answering questions and discussing the plants and wildlife of the swamp. Meet at the Visitor Center.

Guided Canoe Tours

Saturday May 11 & 25, 9:00 - 11:15 a.m.

Meet at the Lee Road Boat Ramp to enjoy a beautiful canoe tour guided by a volunteer naturalist through a portion of the Refuge interior. Explore the northernmost end of the Everglades on this approximately 1.5 to 2-hour tour. You may rent a canoe or kayak 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

Moonlight Guided Canoe Tours

Saturday, May 18, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 15, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 13, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 17, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 14, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 12, 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 - 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

Bird Walk Bird Counts

Rick Schofield, the Audubon Everglades volunteer who leads the early Wednesday morning bird walks, 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, 2018 through April, 2019:
www.loxahatcheefriends.com/upload/Loxahatchee-eBirdYearlyReport2018-2019.pdf

2019 Photography Contest Awards

Thank you to all who entered our 2018 photography contest, to our distinguished judges Meg Puente, Ira Rappaport and Dean Fleischman; 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: Matthew Pickton - Wood Stork
Artistic: 1st - Connie Wagner - My Moments - Sunset over Canal; 2nd - Connie Wagner - Sing to Me - Boat-tailed Grackles; 3rd - Arthur Jacoby - Marsh Trail Infra Red; Honorable Mention: Gwen Solomon - Sunset Bikers; Arthur Jacoby - Snail Kite - Tight Landing; Arthur Jacoby - Kettle of Vultures
Avian: 1st - John Block - Little Blue Heron with Lunch; 2nd - Curt McCauley - Snail Kite - Coming in Hot; 3rd - Mario Labado - Snake on Beak of Great Egret; Honorable Mention: Ruth Pannunzio - Male Snale Kite; Howard Friedman - Red-winged Blackbird; John Block - Monk Parakeets
Fauna: 1st - John Block - White-tailed Deer; 2nd - Rob Gertzman - American Alligator Eye; 3rd - Rob Gertzman - Eastern Lubber Grasshopper; Honorable Mention: Diane Munster - Oh, Deer! Jeanne Lesperance - Prince Charming - Green Anole; Rob Gertzman - Armadillo
Flora: 1st - Connie Wagner - Green Spiral - Fern; 2nd - Arthur Jacoby - Morning Greeting - Spider Lily; 3rd - Harvey Mendelson - String Lilies; Honorable Mention: Jo Ann Ricchiuti - Iris and a Bee; Judy Swerlick - Trail of Leaves - Virginia Creeper; Harvey Mendelson - White Water Lily
Landscapes: 1st - Herbert Zaifert - Boats at Rest; 2nd - Herbert Zaifert - End of Day; 3rd - Jeanne Lesperance - Marsh Trail Sunset; Honorable Mention: Judy Rapp - Photographers at Sunset; Phoenix Marks - Dawn's Early Light - Cypress Swamp; Harvey Mendelson - Reeds in the Sunset
Youth Artistic: 1st - Noah Nance - Van Gogh Marsh; 2nd - Claire Mierau - Two Lone Leaves; 3rd - Leiyana Dumerius - The Blur of the Wild Balsam Apple
Youth Avian: 1st - Edwin Wilke - Endangered Snail Kite; 2nd - Edwin Wilke - Elusive Barred Owl; 3rd - Edwin Wilke - Snail Kite Over the River of Grass; Honorable Mention: Carter Briggs - Plovers; Edwin Wilke - Time to Eat - Red-shouldered Hawk; Ekin Esmer - Reflected Gallinule
Youth Fauna: 1st - Edwin Wilke - White Peacock Butterfly; 2nd - Ekin Esmer - Florida Banded Water Snake; 3rd - Ekin Esmer - Florida Cottonmouth; Honorable Mention: Gia Clarke-Rubin - Butterfly Kiss; Jordan Laurino - Brown Anole; Ekin Esmer - Snake in the Bush
Youth Flora: 1st - Claire Mierau - A Line of Mushrooms; 2nd - Ariana Paredes - The True You - Passion Flower; 3rd - Ekin Esmer - Pink Air Plant; Honorable Mention: Irvine Exantus - Dancing Beauty Berries; Shiara Desir - Salt Marsh Morning Glory; Ariana Paredes - Find Your Passion
Youth Landscapes: 1st - Iveline Exantus - Marsh Bend; 2nd - Vanestha Francois - Sky Reflections - Canal; 3rd - Jordyn Laurino - Fishing Pole by the Dock; Honorable Mention: Sophia Teutsch - Fishing Pier; Peaceful Day on the Marsh - Ariana Paredes; Claire Mierau - A Still Day - Cypress Swamp

The winning photographs are on display in the Visitor Center auditorium and available for sale. They can be viewed on our website at:
www.loxahatchee.smugmug.com/Contest-Photo/Photo-Contest-2019

And yes, we will have all of the photos on our website, hopefully soon, so please be patient!

Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group: Challenges in Wildlife Filmmaking

Thursday, May 23, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Speaker: Tom Fitz, co-founder, Schoolyard Films
Location: Center for Spiritual Living, 2 SW 12th Ave, Boca Raton

Please join the Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group for their monthly meeting featuring Tom Fitz, American cameraman, producer, and director who has documented our planet's natural wonders for over 30 years. As a freelance photographer, Tom has worked for BBC, PBS, National Geographic, Discovery, and many others. He is the recipient of four Primetime Emmy Awards for cinematography and two for outstanding series. He is among a handful of cameramen who has worked in all seven continents and five oceans, including under the ice in our planet's polar regions and in submarines over a mile deep. In 2008, Tom co-founded Schoolyard Films, Inc., an educational non-profit that produces environmental films specifically designed for K-12 classroom use.

Light refreshments will be served. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Learning in the Everglades

The Friends' very own Education Outreach Associate Bradley Rosendorf wrote this for the Sun-Sentinel about the learning opportunities that abound for the schoolkids who come out to visit the Refuge, whether on a scheduled trip with their classes or a spur-of-the-moment stopover with their families...
www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/boynton-beach/fl-cn-opinion-kids-visit-loxahatchee-refuge-20190508-story.html

Two Eagle Dads and a Mom

Audubon tells the bittersweet tale of how a bad bald eagle father redeems himself and helps raise little eaglets with another Dad and Mom...
www.audubon.org/news/a-rare-bald-eagle-trio-two-dads-and-mom-captivates-webcam-fans

And here's the webcam:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSZ89WBs5M8&ab_channel=StewardsoftheUpperMississippiRiverRefuge

It's the Season for Alligators

Last month was the beginning of alligator courting season, while mating season begins in earnest in May and June, so the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been warning the public to be on the lookout as alligators may be venturing out more and, with an estimated population of 1.3 million alligators in Florida, they are everywhere! Check out the map:
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190405/interactive-map-shows-where-floridas-nuisance-alligators-are

Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge Officially Renamed

An official renaming ceremony was held for the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge on April 17. Reed worked for 6 Florida governors and was Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He co-authored the Endangered Species Act and was instrumental in passing the Clean Water Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act. He helped save the Everglades by working to stop the 182-mile-long Cross-Florida Barge Canal and a jetport on 39 square miles just north of Everglades National Park in 1969. His efforts led to the creation of Big Cypress National Preserve. His parents largely created the refuge in the late 1960s and early 70s by donating hundreds of acres on either side of the Indian River Lagoon to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He died last July at age 84.

In September, Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio filed a bill to make the name change official. Lawmakers supported the measure to rename the refuge before the government shut down in December.

At the ceremony, Nathaniel Reed Jr. said that growing up on Jupiter Island, he believed that it was common for private citizens to work with officials to protect land. It was only in adulthood that he realized that his experience had been unique.
www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2019/04/service-renames-florida-refuge-to-honor-conservationist-nathaniel-reed/
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190417/they-dont-make-them-like-nat-anymore-environmentalist-remembered-in-refuge-ceremony
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190409/hobe-sound--national-wildlife-refuge-renamed-to-honor-environmentalist-nathaniel-reed
www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2019/04/09/national-wildlife-refuge-hobe-sound-named-nat-reed/3409729002/

Florida's Legislative Session Wraps Up

The good news coming out of the Florida Legislature this session is that over $360 million was appropriated for protecting and restoring the Everglades, including:

$32 million for Restoration Strategies
$145.5 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
$107.8 million for the Everglades Reservoir (almost $44 million more than required, which will allow the urgently needed reservoir development to be accelerated)
$40 million to complete the Tamiami Trail Project, to move water south to Everglades National Park
$5 million for Dispersed Storage
$32.8 million for the Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Program

In addition, the Legislature appropriated:

$50 million to the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project
$10 million for innovative technologies to combat or treat harmful algal blooms and nutrient enrichment in Lake Okeechobee and other water bodies
$50 million for restoration of freshwater springs
$25 million for water quality projects that help meet water quality restoration goals (Total Maximum Daily Loads)
$25 million for water quality projects to target sources that contribute to Harmful Algal Blooms
$40 million for alternative water supply projects to help communities implement conservation and reuse programs
$5.5 towards coastal resiliency planning in the face of climate change
$33 million for Florida Forever, the state's conservation land buying program

The $33 million for Florida Forever was disappointing, after Governor DeSantis had requested $100 million to equal last year's appropriation, still far short of the $300 million appropriated annually for so many years. Also disappointing, $0 was allocated to Florida's Rural and Family Lands Protection program for conservation of agricultural lands.

Many good bills died, including HB 973, a comprehensive water quality bill.

And many bad bills passed, including SB 7068/HB 7113 - a bill to create three toll road expressways through rural and conservation lands at a cost of $1.3 billion - the Southwest-Central Florida Connector from Collier to Polk County; the Suncoast Connector from Citrus to Jefferson County; and the Northern Turnpike Connector from the north end of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway...

... and HB 7103 - a bill that requires anyone who challenges an amendment to their local comprehensive plan and loses to pay the prevailing party's attorney fees, and restricts the ability of local governments to require affordable housing as part of any new development, dealing a significant blow to what's left of Florida's system of growth management...

... and HB 771 - a moratorium on local governments banning plastic straws...

... and HB 5 (formerly SB 7096/HB 7111) - a bill that, among other things, will make it even more difficult than it already is for citizen-led petition drives to get amendments to the Florida constitution - like 2014's Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1) - on the ballot.

1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club urge you to contact Governor DeSantis and ask him to VETO the toll roads bill (SB 7068/HB 7113). You can call him during business hours at 850-717-9337 or email him from www.flgov.com/email-the-governor/. (Phone calls have more impact.)

More information on the toll roads bill is provided by 1000 Friends of Florida on their website: www.1000friendsofflorida.org/sb-7068/

The websites of 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon Florida and Florida Conservation Voters have more details on the bills that they have been tracking:
www.1000friendsofflorida.org/2019-florida-legislative-session/
audubon.stagecoachdigital.com/web-view/12313
www.fcvoters.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-Legislative-Report_ONLINE.pdf

More information:

Toll roads
www.floridaphoenix.com/2019/05/01/vague-multi-billion-dollar-plan-to-build-new-toll-roads-across-florida-passes-legislature/
www.news-journalonline.com/news/20190407/florida-road-builders-drive-massive-highway-expansion-while-those-in-path-of-construction-are-left-out

Florida Forever Funding
www.floridatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/05/03/why-wont-florida-legislature-fund-land-conservation/3661425002/
www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article229707629.html

Citizen initiatives restrictions

www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article228901509.html
www.publicnewsservice.org/2019-04-08/civic-engagement/concerns-mount-over-restrictions-to-citizen-ballot-initiatives/a66092-1
www.orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-ne-ballot-initiative-hurdles-20190418-story.html

Water quality regulations that didn't pass

www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190430/lawmakers-action-on-toxic-algae-red-tide-fall-way-short-of-promises

Lake Okeechobee Levels Lowered in Response to Concerns about Eel Grass, Toxic Algae

Six of the past seven years have been bad for the eel grass that supports the fish that support the wildlife and the economies of the communities along Lake Okeechobee. Eel grass and other submerged aquatic vegetation is the base of the food chain, but this vegetation dies from lack of sunlight when water levels are too high. Higher lake levels also force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to relieve stress on the dike by releasing freshwater discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries during the wet season, contributing to toxic blue-green algae blooms. Stuart and the Treasure Coast have suffered harmful discharges to the estuaries in nine of the past 11 years, with the discharges blamed for the toxic algae that has taken a heavy toll on marine life, sent residents to the hospital and killed their pets. But some South Florida communities, farmers and utilities fear lower lake levels will leave them without water needed for irrigation and drinking water supplies and for suppressing saltwater intrusion during drought.

In a letter to the Army Corps and South Florida Water Management District last month, Audubon Everglades Policy Director Celeste De Palma called these arguments inaccurate and misleading and said the lake needs to be drained to at least 11 feet periodically to allow for eel grass recovery. The submerged aquatic vegetation has been reduced from 44,000 acres in 2012 to only about 5,000 acres in 2018. The Corps has lowered lake levels this year to help it regrow, with discharges beginning February 23 and ending March 30. The lake was at 11.24 feet above sea level Tuesday. Typically, the Corps has preferred to keep it between 12.5 and 15.5 feet, but it's permitted to go as low as 10.5 feet.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190409/lake-o-drought-concerns-called-inaccurate-and-misleading
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190507/lake-o-level-debate-rages-on-residents-express-trust-issues-to-officials

Wading Bird Nests Plummet After Banner Year Last Year

In preliminary surveys of the Water Conservation Areas from the Refuge to the Tamiami Trail, no Wood Stork nests were found this year, compared with 1,500 in 2018. About 700 Great Egret nests were counted, down from 9,380 last year.

Wading birds flourish when a prolonged or unusually wet rainy season encourages higher fish populations that spread with rising waters through the Everglades. As the waters dry up during winter months, fish are consolidated into smaller areas. The higher densities of fish are needed by wading birds who are trying to feed a family, especially those like the Wood Stork who hunt by touch, groping with their bills in shallow water and then snapping them shut when they touch prey.

This nesting season suffered from a near to below normal rainy season followed by heavy rain in January, in what's supposed to be the dry season, flooding the Water Conservation Areas and dispersing the fish.

Healthy tree islands are also required for nesting so birds can stay off the predator-rich ground, but enough water is needed for patrolling alligators who eat the raccoons that want to eat the birds' eggs. It is estimated that 70% of the tree islands in the Everglades have been lost due to high water levels.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190503/empty-nests-south-florida-wading-birds-numbers-plummeting-whats-happening

Everglades Ecosystem Report Card

The Restoration Coordination and Verification program, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, Florida state agencies and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, has released the first report card on the ecological health of the Everglades. The report covers May 2012 through April 2017, which means it doesn't include the full impact of Hurricane Irma or the devastating outbreaks last year of toxic blue-green algae and red tide. With a score of 45, out of a possible 100, the report card shows South Florida ecosystems are under stress from the regional system of canals, pumps, and control structures that provide flood protection and supply water to nearly 8 million people in South Florida.

While Lake Okeechobee and the northern estuaries suffer from water clarity problems, a loss of underwater vegetation, unbalanced salinity levels, oyster die-offs, and algae outbreaks, the southern coastal systems got the worst grades on the report card. Inconsistent flows of freshwater, drought, hurricanes and sea level rise are working against restoration in the southernmost reaches of the state, which have suffered from salt-water intrusion and massive seagrass and mangrove die-offs.

The federal performance report is part of the regular five-year analysis of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, but this is the first year for the user-friendly report card and interactive website:
evergladesecohealth.org/
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190504/skinny-gators-are-pythons-eating-all-food

Is the Abundance of Wildlife in the STAs Helping or Hurting?

The South Florida Water Management District is working on several studies about how much animals contribute to the phosphorus levels in the Stormwater Treatment Areas, which were constructed to meet lower nutrient levels required by a federal consent decree in 1991. The decree, which ordered the District to clean up polluted water before it entered the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park, is still in place today.

Six Stormwater Treatment Areas totalling 57,000 acres now operate south of Lake Okeechobee. Plants such as cattails and bullrush remove nutrients such as phosphorus and store them in submerged soils as they decay. In STA 1 East, just west of Wellington and east of the Refuge, the average amount of phosphorus in water coming into the area was 204 parts per billion in the past year. The cleansing in the STA reduced that to 29 parts per billion in the water going out, according to the District.

Nutrients make for bountiful wildlife in the Stormwater Treatment Areas. But the bountiful wildlife may also be hurting their ability to remove the nutrients carried in with agriculture and urban runoff. Tens of thousands of American Coots, for example, eat the submerged vegetation that is sucking up the phosphorus and then excrete it back into the water. Alligators, on the other hand, are considered beneficial because their bodies store phosphorus from the food they eat and, with lifespans of up to 80 years, the mineral stays out of the ecosystem for decades.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190416/why-are-dozens-of-gators-gathering-near-wellington

Loxahatchee River Restoration Plans Questioned

Three decades ago, parts of the meandering Loxahatchee River earned federal designation as a wild and scenic river - one of only two in Florida. But development, roads and canals have so altered the watershed that most of the freshwater the river gets during the dry season is from the Grassy Waters Preserve. That tap can be shut off during dry times because Grassy Waters Preserve also supplies the bulk of West Palm Beach's drinking water. Without a consistent freshwater flow, saltwater creeps deep into the blackwater system, pushing back native cypress trees and replacing them with brackish-water loving mangroves.

The Loxahatchee River restoration effort has been ongoing for at least 15 years and is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. A proposed above-ground reservoir, which would be built on 1,600 acres of the Mecca Farms site west of Palm Beach Gardens, would store freshwater that could be fed to the river to fight a saltwater invasion from the Jupiter Inlet. The Palm Beach County Commission voted last week to support the overall restoration plan, but asked for a reconsideration of the reservoir. Former Commissioner Karen Marcus said that the organization she founded, Sustainable Palm Beach County, has shown that a shallow reservoir on Mecca Farms, that would basically turn Mecca into a restored wetlands area, could be used to restore the river as a better, cleaner and cheaper alternative.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190501/county-weighs-in-is-20-foot-high-reservoir-on-mecca-farms-site-cure-for-saltwater-invasion
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20181207/new-this-palm-beach-county-river-suffers-after-blue-green-algae-outbreak

Endangered Seaside Sparrow Blamed for Blocking Everglades Restoration

A decades-long debate about whether the Cape Sable seaside sparrow is blocking Everglades restoration has surfaced again under a new South Florida Water Management District governing board with orders to send water south instead of damaging northern estuaries with Lake Okeechobee overflow. Year after year, the Miccosukee Indian Tribe has watched its cherished tree islands and native wildlife drown north of the Tamiami Trail, while the protected sparrow to the south stays dry.

This month, the newly appointed board questioned the "single-species management" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of a bird whose population dwindled to an estimated 32 last year. The Service argues, along with Florida Audubon and other conservationists, that the bird is a scapegoat for mistakes made in the 1950s during the misguided reroute of the Everglades' natural water flow and before the sparrow's 1967 listing as endangered.

Four massive gates allow water to flow from the flooded land north of Tamiami Trail to the south. Two are closed between October 1 and July 15 so the remaining few birds can hatch their young in flood-vulnerable nests built just six inches above the ground. But it's not just that the gates are closed. They were also built in the wrong place. While the gates can allow water into Everglades National Park, they send it to places it wouldn't naturally go, namely the sparrow's western marl prairie instead of east into Shark River Slough.

Parts of the Tamiami Trail have been elevated and bridged to allow more water to flow into the right areas of Everglades National Park but more work remains.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190422/everglades-restoration-why-1950s-engineering-blunder-and-rare-sparrow-are-key-arguing-points

New Python Management Planning Group Forms

A group of federal, state and non-profit officials gathered in Fort Lauderdale last month to launch an "Interagency Python Management Plan." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and others hope the blueprint for python control will increase agency coordination and help them share successes and expand mitigation to all of South Florida.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190412/new-plan-for-destroying-invasive-pythons

In March, Mike Kimmel, one of the hunters in the South Florida Water Management District's python elimination program, captured the 2,000th python caught in the program since it began two years ago. He credits the program for the raccoons, otters and marsh rabbits he is finally starting to see again after many years of python predation.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190318/indiantown-python-hunter-captures-historic-python-in-early-monday-morning-hours

New SFWMD Governing Board Brings Changes, New Philosophy

A controversial lease approved by the ousted board of the South Florida Water Management District is under "immediate" review as the newly-appointed members look at whether the lease agreement with Florida Crystals can be renegotiated. The eight-year lease allows farming to continue on 16,000 acres slated for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The above-ground reservoir is expected to reduce harmful lake discharges to the northern estuaries.
www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190411/just-in-new-water-board-not-happy-about-sugar-lease-on-reservoir-land-but-can-deal-be-rewritten
www.wlrn.org/post/south-florida-water-managers-take-second-look-controversial-sugar-lease

The new board members are looking to change policies made by their predecessors with a more environmentally friendly bent, right down to the agency's mission statement. The mission statement adopted by the previous board is to "manage and protect water resources of the region by balancing and improving flood control, water supply and water quality through restoration of natural systems." Board member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippsich of Sewall's Point, representing Martin and St. Lucie counties, asked to flip the statement around so it begins with the goal of achieving a healthy ecology while maintaining flood control and water supply.
www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2019/04/11/new-sfwmd-board-plans-emphasize-environmental-restoration/3421109002/

Hours after the Florida Commission on Ethics gave its blessing, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Ron Bergeron to the governing board. Bergeron is a long-time champion of the Everglades and a former member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but his appointment had been delayed over concerns that his business interests could pose a conflict of interest.
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-ne-ron-bergeron-ethics-commission-20190412-story.html

15 Attorneys General Oppose Proposed Rollback of Clean Water Act Protections

In public comments filed last month, attorneys general from 14 states and D.C. opposed the Trump administration's proposal to roll back the regulation known as Waters of the United States, a move they said would end federal oversight of 15% of streams and more than half of the nation's wetlands.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that the Clean Water Act of 1972 gives the federal government oversight over smaller waterways that feed into larger waterways that are clearly protected under the Act. Now-retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that the standard should be that a regulated body of water must have a "significant nexus" with other, larger waterways. This standard has been upheld by federal courts a number of times, while many experts believe that the 1972 law already gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers control over smaller U.S. waterways and tributaries. The attorneys general say that the Trump administration's decision to abandon this standard runs counter to the Clean Water Act's objective of restoring the nation's waterways.
www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/04/16/fifteen-ags-slam-trump-move-limit-federal-authority-under-clean-water-act/

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