Last Month's Newsletter


Horseback Riding on Levees

Approximately 36 miles of trails are now open for horseback riders to see and enjoy the wildlife and unique landscapes of the Refuge. Horseback riding is allowed on the open portions of the perimeter levees (L-39 and L-40 only), terminating south of the S-6 and S-362 water control structures. Visitors may park and access horseback riding trails from the Lee Road boat ramp at the Headquarters entrance in Boynton Beach or from the Loxahatchee Road boat ramp at the Hillsboro entrance in Boca Raton. Some modifications are still needed for gates, so a visit to the Refuge is recommended before you bring your horse. Riders are urged to use extreme caution when navigating gates until the gates are modified for horse use.

Please note: Horseback riders will be sharing multi-use trails with hikers, bicyclists, pet walkers, vehicles, and other horseback riders. Horseback riders must yield to vehicular traffic. Perimeter levee trails are flat with crushed gravel and shell-rock levees. Manure containment bags are required for all horses. Groups of five or more horses will need to obtain a Special Use Permit from the administrative office. For more information go to:

SCHEDULED PROGRAMS        March 2020

Guided Bike Tours

Saturday, March 7 & Sunday, March 8, 10:00 a.m.

Bring your bicycle and helmet and join your guide for a 6.5-mile wheeled tour. Gain perspective with an introduction to the historic dimensions of the Northern Everglades and then pedal to selected Refuge features, interesting plants and hopefully wildlife! Learn about the unique role of the Refuge and the challenges posed by exotic pest plants. Meet in the Marsh Trail parking lot.

Night Walks

Monday, March 9 & Tuesday, March 24, 7:00 p.m.

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

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

Family Fishing Day

Saturday, March 21, 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Learn about knot-tying, fish identification, fishing ethics and conservation, casting and fishing. Fishing poles and bait are provided, or you can bring your own. Youth under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Participants between the ages 16 and 64 must possess a Florida Fishing License. Meet at the Visitor Center.

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

F.U.N Program - Archery 101

Saturday, March 28, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Participants will learn about the history of archery, parts of a bow and arrow, and safe and proper shooting techniques. Participants must be able to lift 15 pounds. The program is geared towards families with youth ages eight and older who want to enhance their outdoor skills together. Children must be accompanied by a participating parent or guardian. Please email by March 25 to register.

Everglades Tram Tours

Daily, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, 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 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.

Twilight Tram Tour

Tuesday, March 10, 7:00 p.m.

Experience sunset over the Everglades followed by a moonlit drive on the marsh in an open-air tram. The tour lasts between 1 and 2 hours. Meet at the Visitor Center.

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

Secrets of the Everglades Tours

Every Thursday, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.

Join a volunteer naturalist who will reveal secrets about the formation of the Northern Everglades and the Refuge's current habitats, aquatic plants and animal life. Walk through wetland areas and take a look at what lies beneath the surface! Learn about Loxahatchee peat, spider lily, spatterdock and periphyton and why the once threatened American alligator now thrives at the Refuge.

Best suited for ages 8 and up, but all ages welcome. Must be able to traverse up to one mile on flat, unpaved grassy surface. Inclement weather may cause cancelation - call the Visitor Center at 561-734-8303 to confirm. Bring water, hat, sunscreen and insect repellent. Meet at the Marsh Trail parking lot.

Sunrise Photography Tours

Photography Walking Tours - Sunday, March 8, 7:36 a.m. & March 22, 7:21 a.m.
Photography Tram Tour - Sunday, March 15, 7:29 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 may be required because space is limited to give personal attention to each photographer. Walking tours may cover a distance of 3 - 5 miles. Meet at the Marsh Trail parking lot near the gazebo. Sunrise times are approximate.

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

Early Morning Bird Walks

Every Wednesday, 7:30 - 11:30 a.m. except March 18 (See below - Fly Out)

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:

Early Morning Bird Watch and Walk - Fly Out

Wednesday, March 18, 6:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Join volunteer naturalist Rick Schofield of Audubon Everglades to watch the birds fly out from the interior of the Refuge, then follow them for an early morning bird walk along the Refuge impoundments. Meet in the boat launch parking area at the west end of Lee Road. For more information visit

Swamp Strolls

Friday, March 6 & Saturday, March 7, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.

Join a volunteer naturalist for a guided tour on the 0.4 mile Cypress Swamp Boardwalk. Learn about the swamp ecosystem from cypress tree knees to animals that call the swamp home. Your guide will talk about how the plants of the swamp were used in the past and present for medicine, food, fiber, transportation, construction, and ceremonial objects. Meet at the Visitor Center.

F.U.N. Program - From Here to There: Basic Orienteering Skills

Saturday, April 25, 10:00 - 1:00 p.m.

During "From Here to There: Basic Orienteering Skills" families can become familiar with the basics of using a map, compass, and GPS. Participants will learn how to take bearings, pinpoint their location, and navigate in the outdoors. The program is geared towards families with youth ages eight and older who want to enhance their outdoor skills together. Children must be accompanied by a participating parent or guardian. Email by April 22 to register.

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, binoculars, and your camera. The tour can be from 3-5 miles. Meet at the Visitor Center.

Roving Naturalist

Every Friday, 12:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Every Sunday, 12:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 10 & 24, 12:30 - 3:30 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

Sunday, March 15, 9:00 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, March 7, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 11, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 9, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 6, 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

37th Annual Photography Contest

Entries accepted now thru Sunday, March 29
Reception and Award Presentation: Sunday, May 3, 1:00 p.m.

Entries for the Friends' annual Photography Contest are now being accepted at the Visitor Center. All entries must be taken on the Refuge or in areas adjacent to the Refuge, including the Stormwater Treatment Areas STA1E & STA1W.

Six categories will be accepted - Avian, Fauna, Flora, Landscape, Artistic and Youth. All entries must be submitted on a CD, DVD or USB flash drive. Winners will be announced at the Awards Reception at the Visitor Center on May 3.

If you need assistance with digitizing or post-processing or have other questions, please contact or visit

For the Contest Entry Form and the complete set of rules, go to:

Plein Air Artwork Now on Display

After watching the artists of Plein Air Palm Beach creating their works of art here on Everglades Day, come back and admire their work now on display until April in the Visitor Center theater. Most of the paintings are available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds (20%) will be donated to the Friends.

Congratulations to the contest winners and to all who participated! And thank you to our distinguished judge Debby Coles-Dobay, Public Arts Manager for the City of Boynton Beach. The winners are:

1st Place: Andres Lopez - Serenity in the Morning
2nd Place: Lorrie B. Turner - A Family of Trees
3rd Place: Linda Fleischman - At Boat Ramp
Honorable Mention: Kathryn Barry - Cypress Moss
Honorable Mention: Donna Snowdale - Loxahatchee Palm

Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group: Local Conservation and How African Species Affect Us

Thursday, March 19, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Speaker: Howie Minsky, CEO of Conserve Our Wild
Location: Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station #42, 14276 Hagen Ranch Road, Delray Beach

The Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group's monthly meeting will feature author, photographer and conservationist Howie Minsky, discussing overpopulation, anti-poaching, the ivory trade and invasive species, with a focus on the Everglades and Africa. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Proposed FY 2021 Budget Increases Funding for Refuge System, Cuts Other Conservation Programs

The U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service has made it a priority to increase funding for the Operations and Maintenance fund of the National Wildlife Refuge System. In President Trump's Budget Request for FY 2021, it would receive a $23 million increase (total request: $525.4 million) over current funding ($502.4 million). However, many other programs would be cut drastically, including State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, Cooperative Endangered Species Fund, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. All funding for land acquisition would be eliminated. Overall, the Department of Interior's budget would be cut by 16%. The Land and Water Conservaton Fund would be cut by 97%.

The Nature Conservancy urges you to contact your Congressional representatives to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund now. You can use their action page to send them emails:

Another bright side to the proposed federal budget for FY 2021 is $250 million for Everglades restoration. The money, if approved by Congress, would be an increase of the $200 million appropriated toward Everglades restoration in the current budget as part of the FY 2020 budget approved in December.

Send the Water South!

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are finalizing a plan that will guide where, when, and how much water will flow south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, called the Combined Operations Plan. However, a number of environmental organizations have expressed concerns that the draft operations plan fails to send enough clean water to the Everglades during the dry season, when it is most desperately needed. Audubon Florida and the National Parks Conservation Association urge you to submit a public comment to the Army Corps and insist that freshwater flow to the Everglades and Florida Bay be increased. You can use either of their action pages to submit your comment:

Florida Legislative Session - Clean Waterways Act & Other Bills Near Passage

With a week left to go in Florida's legislative session, some good bills and some bad bills appear to be on their way to passage:

Clean Waterways Act - SB 712/HB 1343

Florida lawmakers consider the Clean Waterways Act the landmark environmental bill of the 2020 legislative session, but clean water advocates are concerned the bill's regulatory requirements have been dilluted too much to achieve its water quality goals. The bill targets the nutrients found in fertilizer and septic and waste-water systems that are blamed for causing or exacerbating toxic blue-green algal blooms in freshwater bodies and red-tide infestations in coastal waters. The bill would put the Department of Environmental Protection in charge of septic systems and require that they be included in its Basin Management Action Plans - plans that are developed with local stakeholders to reduce or eliminate pollutants and restore particular waterbodies to health. While this is a significant improvement in regulating septic systems, the BMAP process has been criticized for lacking the enforcement mechanisms needed to achieve the stated nutrient-reduction goals. On the plus side, other significant changes include new reporting requirements on the use of fertilizers, mandated municipal sewer systems inspections and more money for local governments to upgrade their wastewater treatment facilities.

Constitutional Amendments Proposed by Citizen Initiative - SB 1794/HB 7037, SB 7062/HB 7093

A package of bills likely to pass would place a series of new restrictions on the citizen initiative process for placing amendments to the Florida Constitution on the ballot, making the process even harder and more expensive than it already is. The Water and Land Conservation Amendment passed by voters in 2014 is one of many citizens' initiatives that might never have gotten on the ballot under the new rules. Under current law, 766,200 valid petition signatures were required to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot (8 percent of the vote in the previous presidential election), collected from at least half of the state's 27 Congressional districts. Ten percent of that number were required for review and approval of the ballot wording by the Florida Supreme Court. Under the proposed law, the signature threshold for triggering Supreme Court review would increase to 50 percent. Petitions would have to be collected from each of the Congressional districts of the state, and of the state as a whole, equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in each district and in the state as a whole in the previous presidential election. Campaigns would have to pay the full cost of counting petitions, instead of the current 10 cents a petition. And petitions would expire faster, shortening the time frame for collecting them from the current two years to February 1 of the next even-numbered year.

Florida Conservation Voters urges you to call your legislators to oppose these bills and has provided an Action page with more information:

Growth Management & Private Property Rights Protection - SB 1766/HB 519

These bills would hinder local governments in managing growth and expose them and their taxpayers to unlimited financial liability. 1000 Friends of Florida urges you to contact your legislators to oppose these bills and has placed them at the top of the bills they are tracking this session:

Budget - Florida Forever

Florida Forever is Florida's premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving natural resources and renewing Florida's commitment to conserve the state's natural and cultural heritage. Florida Forever was once funded at about $300 million a year, but that all changed with the 2008 recession. Dedicating a guaranteed funding source for the program was the focus of the 2014 Water and Land Conservation Amendment approved by 75% of voters. The amendment has been largely ignored by lawmakers, but this year Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed $100 million for Florida Forever and the Senate has proposed $125 million. However, the House has proposed just $20 million.

Florida Conservation Voters urges you to contact your legislators to request a minimum of $100 million for Florida Forever and has provided an Action page you can use to send them emails:

Debate Continues in Rewrite of Lake Okeechobee Management Rules

The committee working to develop the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual is hearing concerns about the dangers of too low lake levels and too high lake levels from all sides. While coastal residents and environmental advocates want a lower lake to avoid summer discharges that can trigger blue-green algae blooms, others want a higher lake to avoid water shortages during a drought. Everglades restoration also depends on water from Lake Okeechobee. Representatives from Palm Beach County and the Southeast Florida Utility Council want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to honor a two decade-old promise that guaranteed no changes in water supply to existing users. The agreement was vital in getting the sweeping Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan passed in 2000. Saltwater intrusion, water restrictions and a lack of drinking water for West Palm Beach and Palm Beach could be problems during drought if there isn't enough backup from Lake Okeechobee. The Corps artificially lowered lake levels ahead of the 2019 rainy season to avoid summer discharges and allow fields of eel grass to regrow, bringing life back to the lake after suffering years of high water levels. This year the Corps has no plans to lower the lake, and that stokes fears that discharges could be necessary during summer months that could trigger a toxic algae bloom.

Celeste De Palma, director of Everglades policy for Audubon Florida, Mark Perry, executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society, and Rae Ann Wessel, natural resource policy director for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, write in their op-ed that a deep lake is not a good thing. Not for the lake, the Everglades, the estuaries, the coastal communities that would be damaged by discharges, or the lakeside communities that would be overwhelmed by a Hoover Dike failure. The current management schedule dramatically improved conditions from the previous schedules that held lake levels so high for so long it devastated the lake, drowning the marsh that provides habitat for fish and invertebrates, filters water and secures sediments.

Research Continues into Effects of Blue-Green Algae and Other Toxins

An epidemiologist with Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has found evidence of exposure to microcystin, a neurotoxin produced by blue-green algae, in people who had no direct contact with water containing the algae. Researchers suspect they were exposed just by breathing the air near toxic blue-green algae blooms.

A different kind of algae toxin 1,000 times deadlier than cyanide lingers at trace levels in the livers of bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon, remaining there even when the algae is not blooming, according to a new study led by Florida Tech. The poison, called saxitoxin, comes from the same algae that glows like fairy dust at night in the lagoon. This is the first report of saxitoxin being detected in marine mammals absent an algae bloom. A separate three-year study found that 1 in 4 fish examined from the lagoon contained saxitoxin.

Florida has spent millions on herbicides that kill aquatic weeds in the state's rivers and lakes. In a video from CNN, scientists and fishermen argue that what started as sensible navigation and flood control has turned into a "chemical addiction" that's killing wildlife and supercharging dangerous red tide algae.

Water Managers Try to Rescue Birds on Rescue Strand

Time is running out to save Rescue Strand, a sprawling tree island west of Broward County in Water Conservation Area 3A and home to South Florida's largest wading bird colony. Following a lackluster rainy season and parched fall the strand is drying out, jeopardizing the birds' nesting season. So, water managers are attempting to improvise Lake Okeechobee's ancient sheet flow by installing a plug to hold back water that is now mainlining down a canal past the Water Conservation Area, hoping to force the water into the cattail and sawgrass prairies surrounding the strand.

Palm Beach County Could Allow More Development in Ag Reserve

The Lake Worth Drainage District wants to sell the development rights to its right-of-ways along its canals in order to fund needed capital improvements. Conservation easements would be placed along the canals, so the District would continue to own the land, but nothing could be built on them. In exchange for buying the development rights to the District's land, a developer would instead be allowed to build in Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve, where development rules require a certain percentage of land be preserved, either in the Ag Reserve or elsewhere, in order to build.

County voters in 1999 overwhelmingly agreed to spend $100 million to acquire about 2,400 acres in the Ag Reserve, a 22,000-acre farming and conservation area located west of Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, just east of the Refuge. That purchase, along with development restrictions in the remainder of the Reserve, were intended to preserve the land's viability for farming.

Just five years ago, the county rejected essentially the same plan, concluding that it was of "no benefit," was "inconsistent" with the county's growth management plan and did not promote farmland protection. Critics also argue that the District would never build on its right-of-ways anyway, so there is no need to protect them from being developed.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking is expected this month for more shopping in the Ag Reserve at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Lyons Road.

Illegal Turtle Trade Puts Florida Turtles at Risk

Florida wildlife officials are increasingly concerned the state's turtles are being scooped up by smugglers feeding an international demand for the freshwater and terrestrial reptiles. Since a 2009 rule banned the commercial harvest and sale of natural-born turtles in Florida, undercover investigations have retrieved thousands of stolen turtles worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Goats Love Brazilian Pepper Trees

Indian River County has goats eating invasive Brazilian pepper trees. They seem to be a favorite with goats which, unlike native wildlife, are unaffected by toxins in the trees. Brazilian pepper trees have pushed out native species on over 700,00 acres throughout the state.

Key West Radar Detects Earlier Bird Migrations

The bulk of spring bird migrations through Florida happen in March through May, but meterologists in Key West have been detecting them earlier. Using a special radar product, the reflections of birds appear as bouquets of greens, yellows and oranges, while rain showers appear in dark blues. Advances in radar technology have allowed researchers and meteorologists to more easily tell the difference between weather and critters that may show up on images, including bats and bugs. A study released in December found a warming world was moving up spring migrations.

Border Wall Construction Blasts Through Sacred Site at National Monument

Contractors have begun blasting through Monument Hill at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in preparation for construction of a border wall. Monument Hill is one of several sites of archaeological and cultural significance to the O'odham people that is in the path of border wall construction.

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Join the Friends!

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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, 1982-2020



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