Last Month's Newsletter

ARTHUR R. MARSHALL LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

February 2021

Seeking Public Comment on Proposed Fees for Camping and Airboating

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting written public comments on proposed fees for camping and airboating at the Refuge. A 30-day public comment period will take place from February 1 to March 2. Camping and airboat opportunities are new recreational uses that were approved in the Refuge's 2019 Visitor Services Plan.

Overnight camping provides unique opportunities to see and hear nocturnal wildlife and observe the night sky away from the nearby urban lights. All campsites will provide a primitive, backcountry experience and will be accessible by foot, bike, or boat. Airboating opportunities will provide visitors access to designated areas for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, education, and more. By offering new camping and expanded boating opportunities, we hope to expose more of our neighboring communities to the beauty of nature, the uniqueness of the Refuge and the biodiversity of the Everglades ecosystem.

The following fees are proposed for campsites and airboating permits: $15 per night for a primitive campsite, $25 per night for a canoe trail platform campsite, $35 per night for a group campsite, and $100 per annual airboating permit.

A fee analysis has been conducted to ensure that proposed fees are comparable to the fees charged on nearby public lands for similar opportunities. The Refuge currently retains nearly 100% of fees collected which are used for recreation program improvements at the Refuge. Typical projects paid for by recreation fee funds include educational programming, infrastructure maintenance, brochures, passes and envelopes, trail improvements, and interpretive signage.

Please submit any comments you have to armloxahatchee@fws.gov or by mail to A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR, ATTN: Rec Fees, 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach, FL 33473. All comments will be reviewed and considered before a final decision is made.

C-6 Area Closed While Baby Owls Fledge

Over the last few weeks a Great Horned Owl has been nesting in a tree next to the C-6 pavilion, attracting many visitors and becoming something of a celebrity. In late January, two tiny fluffy owlets were spotted in the nest! In an attempt to balance wildlife viewing opportunities with wildlife protection, Refuge staff initially fenced off a perimeter around the tree but left the C-6 area open so that visitors could enjoy this rare treat. Unfortunately, a small number of irresponsible visitors were found to be breaking the rules, so staff decided they would have to close the entire C-6 area for the safety of both owls and people. We regret the impact this will have on our many responsible visitors, but wildlife conservation is the fundamental mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and we must act to ensure their protection. The area will be closed until the owlets fledge. Owlets fledge from the nest within 30-37 days after hatching. It's amazing to think that these tiny creatures will be fully feathered and the same size as their parents in less than five weeks. Mom and Dad have lots of hunting to do!

For owlet updates, please monitor www.fws.gov/refuge/ARM_Loxahatchee and www.facebook.com/ARMLoxahatcheeNWR.

Ethical Wildlife Viewing

Volunteer of the Year Barry Willette shares his tips for ethical nature viewing in his article recently published in the Sun-Sentinel's Gateway Gazette:
www.sun-sentinel.com/community/gateway-gazette/fl-cn-opinion-ethical-nature-viewing-20201217-q2wfehmmtffpjafnlh7x56gdm4-story.html

The Refuge and the National Audubon Society also have web pages dedicated to the ethical viewing of wildlife:
www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=6442455203
www.audubon.org/photography/ethics

Refuge Entrance Passes Now Available Online

Daily and annual Refuge entrance passes are now available for purchase online at www.recreation.gov. Search for "Loxahatchee" and click on the button to "Buy a Pass." One day passes are $10 and the annual pass is $25.

America the Beautiful passes and several other kinds of entrance passes can be purchased online for those who frequently visit National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks and other federal recreational fee areas: store.usgs.gov/pass

Sierra Club Inspiring Connections Outdoors - Virtual Festival of Adventure and Outdoor Films

Saturday, February 20, 7:00 p.m. & Sunday, February 21, 7:00 p.m.

Celebrate what we love about the outdoors without any coronavirus risks! The Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group's Inspiring Connections Outdoors has joined five other Sierra Club groups across the country to bring you a two-night virtual celebration of diverse films about the outdoors. Films explore the worlds of white-water kayaking, skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and river surfing, to name just a few. Check out the full descriptions of these incredible films, enter a silent auction, and sign up to get tickets at ICOFilmfest.com. Tickets are free but donations are greatly appreciated. Your donations support the Sierra Club's Inspiring Connections Outdoors, an all-volunteer program that provides safe and fun outdoor experiences for youth and adults from marginalized communities. Once you've signed up you will get a link to watch the Festival on YouTube Premieres (on your computer or smart TV) when the date gets closer.

2021 Refuge Calendar Still Available!

The beautiful 2021 Refuge calendar is still available for purchase. If you would like one, contact Cathy Patterson at pattersoncatherine45@gmail.com.

Virtual Refuge Tour Has New Signs!

On your next trip to the Refuge, keep an eye out for the new Virtual Refuge Tour signs. First created by the Friends of the Refuge in 2014, this self-guided tour has a brand new look! Just use your phone to explore the trails of the Refuge and learn about its flora and fauna and the ecology of the northern Everglades.

Refuge Wildlife Fared Better Than Most in High Water

While last year's rainier than usual wet season wreaked havoc on wildlife in the other Water Conservation Areas, the Refuge, which also serves as Water Conservation Area 1, actually benefitted from the extra water. With 47,000 tree islands in the Refuge, deer and other wildlife have more places to find high ground. Describing efforts to allow more water to move from the Conservation Areas into Everglades National Park, this article quotes Refuge manager Rolf Olson saying the unusually high water allowed workers in airboats to remove invasive plants from the typically dry north end.
www.palmbeachpost.com/story/weather/2020/12/07/small-block-land-stymies-everglades-restoration/3814275001/

Recent Wins for the Everglades

Twenty years after creation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, momentum may finally be building to make it succeed. The omnibus spending bill passed at the end of last year included $250 million for Everglades restoration, an increase of $50 million from last year. The bill also included the new Water Resources Development Act, which will, among other things, accelerate construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir, reduce damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee into coastal estuaries, and combat harmful algae blooms.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has reaffirmed his support for the EAA reservoir, which will store water from Lake Okeechobee that is needed in the Everglades, despite Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson questioning its necessity. Work to bridge the Tamiami Trail and allow the water to flow unimpeded into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay could be completed by 2024.
www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/editorials/fl-op-edit-everglades-reservoir-desantis-20201224-7e6nnxtf35g77dv6ubbbip3tam-story.html

Wetlands Permitting Shifts to State, Environmental Groups Sue

In December the federal government granted Florida's request for wider authority over wetland development, shifting authority to issue permits under the Clean Water Act for dredging and filling wetlands from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In January a coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife sued the EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lawsuit challenges this transfer of authority as illegal because the state's standards do not meet the standards of the Clean Water Act, setting a dangerous precedent and imperiling the nation's waters and the endangered species that rely on them.
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-nsf-florida-wetlands-environment-groups-lawsuit-20210115-7wwvozb45rgelnjcptv2r2zvay-story.html
apnews.com/article/environment-wetlands-florida-0f2892c841eacd7ec45fe42eb2fec161

Rule to Weaken Migratory Bird Protections Delayed

This month the Biden administration has delayed a rule, finalized only last month, that would have drastically weakened the government's power to enforce a century-old law protecting wild birds. Since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was enacted in 1918 it has been unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell migratory birds without a waiver and without taking reasonable precautions. However, a legal opinion issued by the Department of Interior in December, 2017 interpreted the law to prohibit only intentional taking and killing. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declined to penalize companies whose actions have had lethal consequences for birds across the country, regardless of whether or not reasonable precautions were taken or could have been taken to prevent the deaths, and hundreds of ducks, geese, herons and migrating birds have perished in oil pits, on utility lines and in other operations without penalty.

Under the stronger version of the law, the Service had successfully worked with the oil and gas industry to cut in half the number of birds killed in oil pits. Under the new interpretation of the law, individuals and industrial operators, such as oil, gas and wind companies, would not be penalized if they accidentally kill birds - even on a massive scale. Companies at the center of disasters such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which killed an estimated 250,000 birds, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, estimated to have killed more than 1 million birds, would not be penalized under the new rule. The new rule was to have taken effect on Monday, despite a federal judge's blistering ruling against it in August. The Department of Interior will now reopen the issue to public comment.
apnews.com/article/donald-trump-wildlife-only-on-ap-billings-birds-3a70c8432db631dce7df4f9050f1b013
www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/08/11/quoting-kill-mockingbird-judge-struck-down-trumps-rollback-historic-law-protecting-birds/

Environmentalist's Final Appeal Denied

The story we have been following of former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla has come to a sad end, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal of a $4.4 million judgement against her. The Florida Supreme Court had also declined to hear her appeal after she lost a court case in which Lake Point Restoration charged that she lied to Martin County commissioners about the destruction of wetlands in an effort to kill a 2009 agreement that allowed the company to mine as part of a public works project with the South Florida Water Management District. A longtime environmental pioneer, she was recognized in 2019 by the Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group as Environmental Champion of the Year. She has maintained the lawsuit is an attempt to intimidate citizens from contacting their public officials with concerns and was supported in her appeal by several environmental organizations and the libertarian Cato Institute.
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-nsf-supreme-court-rejects-florida-environment-lawsuit-20210111-7k7xewts3rav3gqejgml5vc6le-story.html

Magistrate Rules Against Lake Builders in Ag Reserve

A county magistrate ruled last month that West Boynton Ranches Holdings, the partnership that built the 14-acre lake without permits in Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve, violated the county's building code. "What were you thinking?" he asked. Area residents have been calling on the county since March to enforce its "stop work" orders, saying the construction has affected the water table on their properties, causing severe flooding and trees to collapse. 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.
www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/local/boynton/2021/01/22/county-lowers-boom-builders-lake-west-boynton/6658187002/
www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/local/boynton/2021/01/18/residents-stage-stop-waterpark-protest-monday-west-boynton/4206526001/

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www.facebook.com/loxahatcheefriends
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:
www.loxahatcheefriends.com/membership/membership.shtml

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

Elinor Williams
Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
www.loxahatcheefriends.com
www.facebook.com/loxahatcheefriends

"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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