Last Month's Newsletter


SCHEDULED PROGRAMS        April 2019

Learning at Lox: The Everglades Living Laboratory

Thursday, April 11, 1:30 p.m.

Eric Cline, Wetlands Ecologist with the South Florida Water Management District, will report what we have learned from studying the unique living laboratory of the Everglades right here at the Refuge, the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment. Meet at the Visitor Center.

Sunset Everglades Walking Tours

Tuesday, April 9, 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 23, 7:00 p.m.

Experience the unique sights and sounds of the Everglades in the evening! Grab your flashlight and join a volunteer naturalist on this approximately 1-mile hike to see the sights and hear the sounds of the Refuge at twilight. Wear a 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. Meet at the Visitor Center. Try to arrive a little before the tour starts as a courtesy to others. Must be 18 years or older because it is still alligator mating season!

Everglades Tram Tours

Every Day, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. except April 28 & 29

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, 7:30 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.

Early Morning Bird Walks

Every Wednesday, 7:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Join our volunteer naturalist from Audubon Everglades for an early morning bird walk on the Marsh Trail. Bring binoculars and wear closed-toed/closed heel shoes. These walks are open to birders of all ages and abilities. Meet in the Marsh Trail parking lot. Please arrive 5 - 10 minutes before the walk starts to meet your guide.

Check out recent sightings from eBird Trail Tracker:
... and view our Bird Checklist:

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.

Guided Canoe Tours

Every Saturday, 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:

Moonlight Guided Canoe Tours

Saturday, April 20, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 18, 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

36th Annual Photography Contest Reception and Award Presentation

Sunday, April 28, 1:00 p.m.

Join the Friends for our photo contest awards presentation on Sunday, April 28, 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.

Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group: Mysterious Manta Rays of Florida

Thursday, April 18, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Speaker: Jessica Pate, lead scientist, Florida Manta Project, Marine Megafauna Foundation
Location: FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, 6301 W. Summit Blvd, West Palm Beach, Room 101

Please join the Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group for an exciting talk by Jessica Pate, founder and lead scientist of the Florida Manta Project with the Marine Megafauna Foundation. Jessica will be talking about the fascinating lives of the manta rays that live right off our coast. You will learn about the different species of manta rays, how manta rays eat and reproduce and what threats endanger manta ray populations around the world.

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

Lee Road Cleanup - Volunteers Needed!

Saturday, May 4, 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.

Visit the Refuge - For Your Health!

Here's the latest from Dr. Ron Seifer, our very own journalist...

Science Teacher Studies Plant DNA on the Refuge

William "Robb" Bartenslager, a science teacher at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, has been awarded a $4,000 STEM research grant from the nonprofit Society for Science & the Public. The grant will allow him to buy a thermocycler, the equipment needed to run DNA samples through a process that multiplies the samples into millions of copies. The resulting genetic material can then be used for applications in biology (comparing genes in plants), forensics (matching suspects to DNA found at crime scenes), and medicine (testing horses for certain diseases). Working with staff at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, his Experimental Science Honors class has done a "bio blitz" - taking samples and extracting DNA from the plants they found there.

Tell Congress to Pass the Resource Protection Act!

The Resource Protection Act would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect compensation from responsible parties for damage done to wildlife refuges. Right now, if someone writes graffiti on a wildlife refuge sign, or dumps old tires into a river within a wildlife refuge, or cuts trees and buries oil and gas pipelines on a refuge, it's the taxpayers who pay for it. This Act would change that, and channel any fees or restitution received from the person who caused the damage back to the refuge that was damaged. The Service would use those funds to directly restore any injured or damaged Service resource without the need for further Congressional appropriation. This would be the same authority that is currently granted to the National Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You can use the National Wildlife Refuge Association's action page to urge your Congressional representatives to support and pass the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Protection Act:

U.S. EPA Accepting Public Comment on Proposals to Weaken Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a redefinition of "Waters of the United States" to remove the Clean Water Act's protections from up to 60% of wetlands nationwide. In Florida it is estimated that this rule rollback would remove protections from about 6 million acres of wetlands.

The EPA is accepting public comment on this proposed rule change through April 15. For information on how to submit public comment on this proposal go to:

The EPA is also proposing changing the Mercury and Air Toxic Pollution Standards of the Clean Air Act so that coal and oil-fired power plants would not be required to clean up mercury pollution if the cost outweighed the benefits. Since the EPA does not consider health benefits in its cost benefit analysis, it estimates the cost of the rule to be $7.4 billion to $9.6 billion annually and the benefits to be just $4 million to $6 million a year.

The EPA is accepting public comment on this proposed rule change through April 17. For information on how to submit public comment on this proposal go to:

Tell Your State Reps to Fund Florida Forever!

Florida's legislative session is well underway and, in general, the funding proposed for addressing environmental issues is higher than it has been in recent years, but not for Florida Forever, Florida's land conservation program. While Governor DeSantis is proposing $100 million in his budget, the Florida Senate is proposing only $45 million and the Florida House only $20 million.

1000 Friends of Florida urges you to call and/or email the key decision makers and tell them to give Florida Forever the full funding it needs and is owed - the funding voters were promised when they approved the Water and Land Conservation Amendment to the Florida Constitution in 2014:

You can also use the Florida Conservation Voters' action page to urge your state representatives to co-sponsor HB 1341 or SB 944 - the Land Acquistion Trust Fund - that would require lawmakers to appropriate at least $100 million every year to Florida Forever.

Tell Your State Reps to Oppose Anti-Voter Bills!

Florida lawmakers want to make it much harder for voters to pass amendments to the Florida Constitution like the Water and Land Conservation Amendment they passed in 2014. Amendments already have to pass by 60% of the vote. To be placed on the ballot, proponents must collect valid signatures equal to 8 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last presidential election in Florida, meaning signature gatherers must collect almost a million signatures, within a span of no more than two years. Signatures must be gathered from at least 14 of Florida's 27 Congressional districts. This means that the only way an amendment can get on the ballot is by using paid signature gatherers, and now they want to place more restrictions on who can gather signatures. Petition gatherers would have to register with the Secretary of State (even if they are volunteers or family members), and could not be paid by the signature. And the ballot summary would have to contain the name of the sponsor, a cost estimate and contribution information, all without lengthening the 75 word limit on ballot summaries.

1000 Friends of Florida urges you to call and/or email the key decision makers and tell them not to support SB 7096 and HB 7111. These bills would add even more restrictions to the already extremely difficult process of getting an amendment on the ballot:

The website of 1000 Friends of Florida has more details on the bills such as this one that they are tracking:

Discharges from Lake Okeechobee into St. Lucie River Stopped

Discharges from Lake Okeechobee east into the St. Lucie River and Estuary were stopped last week as the lake dropped to 11.9 feet above sea level. Discharges will continue west to the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, which needs some fresh water during the dry season to fight back intruding saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico.

Discharges began Febrary 23 in the hope they could be avoided during the rainy season when nutrient-laden runoff and warmer, longer days lead to blue-green algae blooms that can leak into the estuaries. Diluting the salinity levels of the estuaries with fresh water from the lake also encourages algae growth.

Discharges are necessary when high lake levels threaten the aging Herbert Hoover dike, to avoid the risk of flooding the communities south of the lake. Lake Okeechobee also benefits from see-sawing high and low water levels so eel grass - the base of the food chain in the lake - can get sunlight. Since 2012, the lake has lost about 39,000 acres of submerged vegetation in water that has been too deep and too murky for it to grow. Last fall, only 5,000 acres remained to clean the water, provide a place for bugs to live and for fish to feed and breed.

New Reservoir West of Lake Okeechobee To Reduce Discharges into Caloosahatchee River

Restoring meadows of eel grass in the tidal draws of the Caloosahatchee River is a key goal of the 10,500-acre reservoir that is being built west of Lake Okeechobee The new reservoir is part of the original Comprehensive Everglades Everglades Restoration Plan approved by Congress in 2000. The reservoir will allow fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to be stored and released into the Caloosahatchee in the dry season when it is needed, instead of in the rainy season when it is not, with the resulting salinity imbalance leading to the growth of toxic blue-green algae during the wet season and the collapse of eel grass communities during the dry season. In bygone times, eel grass would clean the water and provide habitat for fish, oysters and blue crabs.

A contract to complete the final piece of the work on the reservoir was unanimously approved last month by a new South Florida Water Management District governing board sworn in just hours before. The reservoir is expected to be ready in 2023.

Dolphins Killed by Blue-Green Algae Show Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

Toxins produced by blue-green algae that have increasingly polluted Florida waters have been found in dead dolphins that also showed signs of Alzheimer's-like brain disease, according to a new study led by University of Miami researchers. The study, published last month in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, is the first to show detectable levels of the neurotoxin, commonly called BMAA, in dolphin brains that also displayed degenerative damage similar to Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's disease and Parkinson's in people. Additional studies are looking into the higher incidences of Lou Gehrig's disease found in people who live near lakes with frequent algal blooms.

Florida's Springs Also Plagued with Algae

Once jewels of blue water, neon-green eelgrass and brilliant-white sand, many of Florida's springs have been rendered dark and slimy by the excessive growth of algae that feeds on pollution seeping into groundwater from septic tanks, sewage systems, agricultural and lawn fertilizer and stormwater. Citizens grouops have filed a legal challenge, claiming that the state's current approach for regulations, projects and funding is inadequate to prevent further degradation of springs, even if it succeeded as designed. This article highlights five of the springs at the center of the unfolding battle - Blue Spring, Ichetucknee Springs, Manatee Springs, Silver Springs and Wekiwa Springs:

Lawmakers Attempt to Address Florida's Polluted Waters

Whether it's a sewage spill in the Suwannee, red tide in Southwest Florida, blue-green algae pouring into estuaries from Lake Okeechobee, algae-clogged freshwater springs or brown tide in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida's waterways have been under assault. Florida lawmakers are now trying to address these issues, but their efforts so far have been piecemeal, while they seem to be ignoring some of the biggest sources of pollution.

Sewage spill legislation cleared committees in both the Florida House and Senate last month with unanimous bipartisan support, along with a bill that would boost permitting requirements for biosolids, or human waste left over from the municipal sewage treatment process. But while there is support for cracking down on municipal sewage spills and, to some degree, septic tanks, there has been less talk about regulating farm runoff, whether it is fertilizer or animal waste, both of which feed algae blooms. Nutrients can also wash into waterways from urban stormwater runoff. Legislation has been filed to address many of these issues, but has yet to advance.

Some also would like to see a broader discussion about growth management. Florida's once-vaunted growth management laws were dismantled by lawmakers in 2011. Many legislative leaders oppose the idea of reining in growth, even as Florida's population continues to increase at a rapid pace, straining the state's natural resources.

Here's a brief history on the rise and fall of growth management in Florida and why some fear we've reached a tipping point:

Proposed FY 2020 Federal Budget Shortchanges Everglades Restoration

Republican lawmakers who had requested $200 million for Everglades restoration in the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2020 issued a news release last month in response to the White House's budget request of just $63 million. U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and U.S. Representatives Brian Mast and Francis Rooney said in a joint statement that the proposed budget "failed to include sufficient funding for Everglades restoration" efforts. "For the third year in a row, the administration's budget request underfunds critical projects in South Florida. It is incredibly short-sighted to continue to underfund a series of projects that are absolutely necessary to ensure the environmental sustainability and economic vitality of one of the most dynamic regions of our nation."

President Trump toured Lake Okeechobee last week but offered no increase in funding for Everglades restoration, despite the hopes of both Democratic and Republican elected officials, including Governor Ron DeSantis. No money at all is requested in the budget for the new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

Governor Appoints Chief Science Officer

Governor Ron DeSantis appointed a prominent biologist as the state's first chief science officer, a new position the governor created as part of his focus on the environment. Thomas Frazer, the director of the University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment and former acting director of the UF Water Institute, will take the job in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. His initial focus will be water, particularly the algae blooms that have plagued parts of the state's Gulf and Atlantic coasts. While multiple state agencies, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and South Florida Water Management District, have scientists, the statewide position will coordinate and analyze research from those groups as well as look at new environmental monitoring needs to better guide solutions to problems such as water pollution, sea level rise and climate change.

New Executive Director to Lead South Florida Water Management District

Drew Bartlett, deputy secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a career water steward, is the new Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District. His selection was approved by unanimous vote last month by a new governing board sworn in just minutes before his appointment. He replaces Ernie Marks who resigned in February. The board also named Chauncey Goss chairman and Scott Wagner vice-chairman. The board is in charge of flood control, water quality and Everglades restoration.

Three top employees are leaving: the District's director of communications, interim general counsel and division director of Everglades policy and coordination, who was key in the push to get the Lake Okeechobee southern reservoir approved.

The new governing board members face a daunting task, including a potential budget crisis with the loss of funding for Everglades restoration in the president's proposed FY 2020 budget.

Appeals Court Upholds Decision to Allow Oil Drilling in Everglades

The First District Court of Appeal announced last month that the decision in favor of Kanter Real Estate's plan for oil drilling in the Everglades of western Broward County would stand, despite a request by the state of Florida, Broward County and the city of Miramar to rehear the case. In refusing to issue Kanter a drilling permit, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had invoked the significance of the Everglades as "world renowned for its unique environmental characteristics." But a lower court ruled and the appeals court accepted as fact that the area was isolated and degraded and had no hydrological connection to either the Everglades or the aquifer, despite arguments to the contrary by geologists and hydrologists for the Florida DEP.

Before Kanter can drill, the company will need a land-use change and other permits from Broward County, as well as permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to invade wetlands and from the South Florida Water Management District to drill a water well needed to operate its oil rig. Numerous elected officials have expressed outrage and are considering their options, including appealing to the Florida Supreme Court. However, that may be a long shot, because Florida's oil drilling statute has not been updated since 1969 and the word "environment" does not appear in the list of criteria that regulators must consider.

Rare Springtime Outbreak of Sargassum Hits South Florida

Sargassum seaweed has invaded South Florida's beaches again this year, earlier than usual. Sargassum is a bushy brown algae that is more commonly seen here in summer, carried to South Florida by ocean currents from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Sargassum provides food for birds and shelter in the ocean for hatchling sea turtles, who feed on the tiny crabs and other organisms that live in it. In large quantities, however, it can prevent turtles from laying eggs and new hatchlings from reaching the water. Among the theories for the increase in seaweed in the Caribbean are climate change, Saharan dust raining down phosphorus as it crosses the Atlantic Ocean, fertilizer in sewage runoff washing off land, and changing ocean currents. USF scientists think the mats of seaweed may be leftovers from last year's record-setting sargassum crop.

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Help Us Grow!

Tell your friends about this hidden treasure! How many of them know we have a piece of the Everglades right here in Palm Beach County? Bring them out, and encourage them to join the Friends. Better yet, give them a gift membership!


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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, 1982-2019



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