Last Month's Newsletter



Everglades Tram Tours

Every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Thursday 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. & 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. except Monday, July 8 & Thursday, July 25
Every Saturday, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 20 & 27, 10:00 - 11:30 a.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.

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, July 9 & 23, 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 July 6 & 20, 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, 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.)


*** 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

Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group: Morikami Potluck Picnic & Summer Social

Saturday, July 13, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Location: Lake Biwa Pavilion in Morikami Park, 16800 Jog Rd, Delray Beach

The monthly meeting of the Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group will be a Potluck Picnic and Summer Social. All are invited to join them at the Lake Biwa Pavilion in Morikami Park. Please bring your own food items to cook on the grill, eating utensils, plates, napkins, and beverages. Email Mary Cassell to RSVP and to sign up to bring a side dish or other food item:

All Sierra Club General meetings are free and open to the public, although a $5 donation per person for the picnic is suggested to offset the cost of the pavilion rental. If you choose to enter the Museum and/or Japanese Gardens, the admission is $13 for seniors and $15 for adults.

Sunday Morning Nature Store Volunteer Needed!

The Friends are looking for a volunteer to work in the Friends' Nature Store in the Visitor Center on Sunday mornings - please contact Cathy Patterson at

New Visitor Services Plan Released

The long-awaited Visitor Services Plan has been finalized and can be viewed at:

The new plan provides for expanded recreational opportunities on the Refuge including hunting, frog gigging, bowfishing, fish gigging, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation, hiking and biking, concessionaire operations, motorized and non-motorized watercraft, horseback riding, pet walking, ceremonies, instructor-led small group activities, camping, and commercial uses. A draft of the plan was released in the Fall of 2018. During the 60-day public review period that followed, over 400 comments were received. A summary of comments and responses can be found in Appendix I of the plan. Here's an article from the Palm Beach Post that was written during the comment period:

Visitor Service Plan Briefing for Volunteers

Thursday, July 25, 11:00 - a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
RSVP to Ana at by Wednesday, July 24

Refuge volunteers are invited to attend a briefing on the new plan by Refuge Manager Rolf Olson.

Funding Comes Through to Raise Tamiami Trail

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Florida $60 million to raise 6.5 miles of the Tamiami Trail. That money adds to $40 million in state dollars already earmarked for the project. The money will be used to finish elevating the remaining 6.5 miles of roadway between two bridges built during an earlier phase, and install six sets of concrete culverts between them. This will increase the amount of water flowing south into Everglades National Park by an estimated 28 percent, without flooding the nesting areas of the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow south of the trail. Currently, too much water piles up north of the trail in Water Conservation Area 3B, where tree islands die from high water levels. At the same time, Florida Bay suffers from a lack of freshwater that causes massive sea grass die-offs because of high salinity levels. Allowing more water to go south should also alleviate some of the need to send Lake Okeechobee water to the sea through the northern estuaries - a move that dilutes the brackish waterways, killing aquatic life and encouraging blue-green algae blooms.

Also last month, South Florida Water Management District governing board members unanimously approved an additional piece of the Tamiami Trail plan. About $2.4 million will be spent to bury overhead power lines on a more than 5-mile stretch of the trail that will eventually be removed.

To see a map go to:

Four Victories for the Everglades!

Audubon celebrated four big victories for the Everglades last month:
- Final phase of Tamiami Trail bridging to receive full funding (see above)
- Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir work to begin 18 months earlier
- U.S. House Energy & Water bill includes $200M for Everglades restoration
- A fighting chance for the liquid heart of the Everglades - Lower Lake O levels have allowed new aquatic vegetation to sprout

Here is Audubon Florida's most recent State of the Everglades report:

More on the expedited permit applications for the EAA Reservoir from the South Florida Water Management District:

More on the $200 million in federal funding for Everglades restoration:

Record Numbers of Wading Bird Nests Counted in 2018

The 2018 wading bird nesting season was one of the largest on record, according to the South Florida Water Management District's annual South Florida Wading Bird Report. An estimated 138,834 nests of white ibises, wood storks, roseate spoonbills and other wading birds were counted last year, numbers not seen since the 1940s. While most of the credit belonged to a favorable pattern of rainfall that produced dense concentrations of the fish and crayfish on which the birds depend for food, and it's already clear that this year will be far less successful than last, the swift increase in bird populations in 2018 was taken as an encouraging sign of how the Everglades will respond, once restoration work succeeds in restoring more favorable patterns of water flow through South Florida's wetlands.

Hurricane Irma and other storms dumped high amounts of rain on South Florida in 2017 and 2018, producing extensive seasonal habitat for fish. Then a dry spell arrived, concentrating those fish in the remaining pools of water, making them easy for the birds to catch.

View the report:

Bills of Environmental Concern Signed Into Law

During Florida's recent legislative session, a number of bills of concern to environmental and good government advocates passed. Unfortunately, they have now all been signed into law by the governor with the exception of one: HB 771, which would have prevented cities and counties from passing plastic straw bans, was vetoed by the governor:

SB 7068 will create three toll road expressways through rural and conservation lands at a cost of $1.3 billion:

HB 7103 has been called the death knell of growth management in Florida, because amid ongoing development pressures, local comprehensive plans are the only means that communities have of protecting our environment, economy and quality of life. And citizen challenges are the state's only remaining enforcement mechanism for ensuring that proposed developments are consistent with local comprehensive plans. HB 7103 was designed to discourage these challenges by requiring anyone who challenges a development order and loses to pay the legal fees of the winners, regardless of how much money a deep-pocketed developer chose to spend to win. The bill also restricts the ability of local governments to require affordable housing as part of any new development.

HB 5 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.

On a more positive note, HB 5401, which creates a Division of Law Enforcement within Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, was also signed into law. This will allow the DEP to conduct criminal investigations into environmental crimes, instead of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and is expected to make it more likely that these crimes will be prosecuted.

The websites of 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon Florida and Florida Conservation Voters have more details on the bills that they were following throughout the session:

Blue-Green Algae Task Force to Advise Governor on Prioritizing Water Projects

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' newly created Blue-Green Algae Task Force is expected to study the science behind the state's toxic algal blooms and advise the governor on prioritizing $625 million in water projects that were approved by the legislature in the 2019-2020 budget. Algal blooms, fueled by nutrients such as phosphorus from fertilizers and septic tanks, have killed fish, wildlife and pets and have sickened people who have come in contact with the water or breathed the fumes. The new task force is headed by Noah Valenstein, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Thomas Frazer, who was appointed to the newly created position of Chief Science Officer for the state. Five other scientists have been appointed to the panel.

After its first meeting in June, concerns were raised that the group's focus might be limited to the need for more monitoring of state waters and field staffing, without addressing the sources of the nutrients that fuel algae growth.

At its July meeting, the focus was on best management practices, or BMPs, with group members saying that best farming practices are not doing enough to remove nutrients before they reach Lake Okeechobee. Most of the nutrients come from north of the Lake, from as far north as farms just south of Orlando. Frazer was quoted as saying, "With regard to phosphorus loading in Lake Okeechobee, it's certainly not going down, so we're challenged in that regard. It may indicate that we need to do something radically different in addition to the BMPs." As to septic tanks, Frazer said, "Moving forward we're going to have some discussions about sources like septic systems, and we're going to have to deal with some issues as it relates to toxins. The challenges are pretty big, and I don't think we're going to try to hide from that at all."

The Palm Beach Post editorial board was one of those that raised concerns after the first meeting, asking why Florida's DEP hasn't already added more field staffers and restored the 235 water monitoring stations shut down by the previous governor without waiting for the task force, given the obvious need.

Last month, after blue-green algae was spotted on Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released results from tests of the Lake that showed toxicity levels more than twice what's considered safe. Dr. Paul Gray of Audubon Florida cautioned against eating fish from the Lake. Rashes, respiratory problems and nausea are linked to the toxin produced by blue-green algae, as well as long-term liver disease and neurological diseases like Alzheimer's.

The task force and chief science officer were appointed at the end of April:

Numerous bills that would've made at least incremental progress in regulating water quality stalled and died in Florida Legislature subcommittees in the session that just ended.

The algal blooms are likely to keep growing this summer, because we have in abundance the three main things that fuel the growth of blue-green algae, as well as red tide: sunshine, warm temperatures and rainy season storms that wash nutrients from fertilizers and septic systems into our waterways. Dr. J. William Louda elaborates on this in his letter to the editor and urges us all to do more:

Maggy Hurchalla urges Lake Okeechobee Water Users to Find Middle Ground

Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla explains the Lake Okeechobee water wars and woes in a nutshell, and urges water users to find the middle ground. Here are some excerpts from her insightful commentary...

"When Lake O gets over 16 feet it starts drowning the submerged vegetation. We went past 16 feet in six of the past seven years, and Irma took it to 17 feet -- good-bye submerged vegetation. When the natural stuff dies it quits cleaning the water, and we lose an ally in controlling the nutrient soup that feeds the toxic algae blooms. We lost about as many acres of cleansing plants in the Lake as we have built in storm water treatment areas, for a billion dollars.

"When Lake O gets below 10.5 feet, the opposite thing starts happening: the marsh grasses are drying and dying. Bird, fish and alligator nesting all but stop.

"A drought once every 10 years can help the Lake by solidifying and oxidizing the loose bottom muck. More than that is damaging."

"Higher levels which would store more water and avoid extreme drawdowns will hurt the Lake, and encourage algae blooms and result in more discharges to the estuaries.

"Repeated drawdowns below 10.5 feet will hurt the Lake and encourage algae blooms.

"The single biggest obstacle to managing a healthy Lake O is the fact that water managers have promised users more water from the Lake than they can provide. They kept giving out consumptive use permits even though they weren't supposed to if it harmed the Lake. Now, the only way to honor their promise is to harm the Lake."

Speaking of Maggy, a state appeals court upheld a $4.4 million verdict against her last month, finding that she made false statements when she emailed Martin County elected officials about concerns she had with the operations of the rock mining company Lake Point Restoration in 2013. A coalition of environmental and free speech organizations supported her appeal, including the First Amendment Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. Barbara Petersen, executive director of the non-profit First Amendment Foundation, said the public "should be worried" about what this judgement might mean to anyone contacting their elected officials.

Sargassum, More Algae and Dead Zones

Sargassum seaweed is back this year with a vengeance, almost as bad as last year, the highest beaching event on record, coating beaches in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and the eastern Atlantic, including Palm Beach County.

Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico could see one of its largest dead zones on record this summer. The Mississippi River now has three times the amount of nitrogen that researchers saw in the 1950s, and phosphorus has doubled. This year thousands of acres of farms have flooded, with the fertilizer-laden water from those fields going straight into the River, which empties into the Gulf. The dissolved molecules of nitrogen and phosphorus stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which falls to the bottom and decomposes with bacteria that use up oxygen. That leads to the creation of dead zones, where there is not enough oxygen to sustain sea life.

And another kind of smelly brown algae is coating the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. Like the more toxic forms of algae, it is fueled by an excess of nutrients in the water from fertilizers, septic tanks and other pollutants.

Lawsuit Filed Against Growers to Stop Burning of Sugar Cane Fields

A federal class-action lawsuit was filed last month against a dozen sugar growers over the health effects of burning sugar cane fields, a practice that has been ongoing in northwest Palm Beach County for decades. The suit is asking the court to institute a medical monitoring program for residents of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and nearby areas, as well as to force sugar companies to stop any future crop burnings.

Oil Drilling Saga Continues for Everglades of Western Broward County

An initiative to thwart an oil drilling plan in the Everglades passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month, but chances of its passing the Senate are uncertain. The amendment to a larger spending bill would impose a one-year moratorium on the issuance of wetlands permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Broward portion of the Everglades.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection initially denied a permit for Kanter Real Estate to drill an exploratory well there. But a state administrative judge ordered the permit to be issued, finding that the land in question was already degraded and that the project would not pose a threat to water quality. The 1st District Court of Appeal refused to give opponents - including Broward County and the City of Miramar - a rehearing before the entire court. The county and city considered taking the case to the Florida Supreme Court, but dropped their legal efforts after concluding that the chances of stopping the well were slim.

South Florida Wildlife Center May Have to Move

The South Florida Wildlife Center's wildlife hospital may have to move off the land it's leased for nearly 50 years, so that the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport can use the site for something else, such as a maintenance building. The Wildlife Center rescues and rehabilitates about 12,000 wild animals each year - raccoons, birds, turtles, pelicans, squirrels and whatever other injured creatures the public brings to its doors. Broward County Commissioners have assured the Center that it will continue to have a home somewhere in the county, but the uncertainty of extending the current lease at the current location leaves up in the air plans to build a new $10 million wildlife hospital and the donations committed to it.

Everglades Python Hunters Hit Another Milestone

A two-woman team of dog-groomers entered the Everglades at night last month and captured the 500th Burmese python to be removed under the snake eradication program run by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (Not to be confused with the program run by the South Florida Water Management District that has removed more than 2,000 snakes.) Small mammals and large ones, too, have become rare in the Everglades, as the non-native snakes eat rabbits, otters, foxes, raccoons, bobcats and even full-grown deer. They also eat birds and alligators.

The South Florida Water Management District's python bounty hunter Dusty "Wildman" Crum even got his own Discovery Channel show "Guardians of the Glades." (Sorry, I think it's over - the six-episode show premiered on May 28.)

Crocodile Ventures North into Martin County

A crocodile was spotted in Martin County last month, an unusual sight to see, since most crocodiles prefer Florida's mangrove-lined southern tip. With numbers now estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000, crocodiles were downgraded federally from endangered to threatened in 2007. Most live in Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay.

Latest Issue of Gator Tales

The Friends' most recent issue of Gator Tales features our winning art contest entries, Bradley Rosendorf's wildlife observations on the Marsh Trail, Barry Willette's tips on not getting too close to wildlife to get that perfect shot, Dr. Ron Siefer's collection of Everglades stamp issues and more. Check it out online:

Shop on Amazon and Support the Friends! Take Advantage of Prime Deals July 15 - 16!

Shop at AmazonSmile and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the Friends, at no extra cost to you! And for two days only, Amazon Prime members can shop and save on great deals all day Monday and Tuesday, July 15 - 16, starting at 3:00 a.m. on Monday. Bookmark this link:
Or, if you don't have the link handy, just go to and select "Friends of the Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee Natl Wildlife Refuge" (You can just search for "Loxahatchee" but don't try to spell out "National" or it won't work!)

Like Us on Facebook!

Thanks to Bradley Rosendorf we have a very active community of Friends on Facebook:
Please spread the word and ask the folks you know to "Like" us!

Join the Friends!

If you're not already a Friends member, why not join now? Your support helps fund Refuge programs and special projects, and helps make our annual Everglades Day possible. Dues are only $25 per person or $40 for a family membership. All members receive our biannual newsletter Gator Tales and a 10% discount in our gift shop. You can sign up online at:

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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