Hi! I have not made a post in several months as my family has been traveling and of course school takes up a lot of time. In the past couple months we’ve visited Key West, Grand Canyon, Washington DC, Gettysburg, Atlanta, and other favorite spots within Florida. I love the heat of summer but with fall and winter comes the best time for my favorite activities- biking, paddling, and bird watching.
Today I am writing to ask for your help. There are many environmental problems facing Floridians right now so it will come as no surprise that yet another area is in peril: the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Loxahatchee NWR is fragmented from the area that we know as the remaining Everglades. This is the ONLY remaining undisturbed land left of what was once the northern Everglades. Its existence is precious to me, and I hope to you, too. If this area is no longer conserved as an NWR, we all stand to lose this last remnant of what has been destroyed all around it.
On my first visit to Loxahatchee NWR several years ago with my mom and dad, I was beyond thrilled to see a purple gallinule for the first time. These birds are shockingly beautiful and while I have had the pleasure of seeing many more since then, that first-ever sighting lives as ultra special in my heart. We also saw many other species of birds while enjoying the many pathways on the refuge. The peace, serenity, and unbounded joy that I feel when in places like Loxahatchee NWR cannot be described, but other nature lovers certainly must know what I speak of. Loxahatchee NWR was also the site of my first ever canoe paddle. I will never forget that day, the amazing beauty that surrounded us, and the wildlife that we saw. This is a magical place that must continue to be conserved so that others in the future can continue to experience the last vestige of the northern Everglades.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is currently considering terminating their lease with the refuge. This is not only heart-breaking to me, but infuriating. Please help!!
This is an article about this issue that summarizes the issue:
I am asking for your help. Would you please call or send Governor Rick Scott a personal email to voice your concern about this issue? The NWF article has a link to send a pre-written message to the Governor on this issue, however, I ask you to please write your own message. I have attended multiple workshops on effective ways to advocate for issues that matter, and every single time it is mentioned by panelists (some that have been state legislators, and all have been public officials at some level) that THEY DO NOT GIVE ANY WEIGHT TO FORM LETTER RESPONSES. This is one of the most important lessons that I have learned when communicating with public officials!! Personal comments matter whether on the phone, in an email or a snail mail letter.
Rick Scott Email: http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/
Rick Scott Phone: (850) 488-7146
Included below are some writing/talking points provided by the Audubon Society of the Everglades.
Thank you for your help!
-The first National Wildlife Refuge was born in Florida, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. Florida is also about to become the first state to lose a National Wildlife Refuge! Revoking the lease agreement would result in losing Florida’s second largest National Wildlife Refuge – the Loxahatchee Refuge is second only to the mostly under water Key West National Wildlife Refuge
-With only 2% of the land in Loxahatchee NWR owned by USFWS, revoking the lease agreement would result the end of Loxahatchee NWR as we know it. 2% is not enough habitat to support the biological diversity crucial to wildlife populations that call the Refuge home.
-The loss of the ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is bad for wildlifeand migratory birds, bad for the community and bad for South Florida taxpayers.
-Bad for wildlife: The Refuge’s mission is one of conservation, management and protection of wildlife. Under the current agreement between both agencies, water management regulations are taken with special consideration of wildlife. Revoking the lease means the land will be returned to a Water Conservation Area (WCA) where the SFWMD main focus is water management, storage and supply. Managing this area as a WCA could, therefore, mean losing much of what’s left of the historical Everglades in Palm Beach County.
-Loxahatchee has the highest number of tree islands (45,700) because it has been managed as a Refuge where the emphasis is conservation, management and protection of wildlife
–WCA 2 used to have 40 tree islands. Currently, only 3 remain
–WCA 3 used to have 1,241 as of 1940. Currently only 577 remain
–WCA3 continues to lose tree island area, losing 519 acres between 1995 and 2004 (from the 2011 SFER, Chapter 6)
-Bad for the community: If the Refuge were abolished, the public access to the refuge would be in question, and management and staffing of public access would have to be taken on as an additional program expense by SFWMD.
-Bad for taxpayers: Right now USFWS is contributing $2.5 million annually to the treatment of invasive species. If the District kicks out the Service, then the District will pass on 100% of the bill to South Florida taxpayers.
-Combating invasive exotic species is crucial to protect the integrity of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, but it is not reason enough to lose a national wildlife refuge.
Revoking the lease agreement will not solve the challenge of controlling and combatting invasive exotics in the Refuge by itself- this is a poor excuse for eliminating a National Wildlife Refuge!
-Governor Scott, the People of Florida will remember you were in charge of eliminating one of Florida’s largest National Wildlife Refuges. You’ll be responsible for the destruction of the remaining original Everglades in Palm Beach County
-The Scott Administration has a history of surplussing conservation land. We don’t want to see our Refuge sold for development or leased for farming. This is crucial habitat and it should remain a Wildlife Refuge!
-Lygodium is presently one of the most invasive plants in Florida. In light of shrinking budgets and stagnant appropriations at the state and national levels, cooperation among agencies is key to successfully combat invasive exotic species.
-During Fiscal Year 2016 the district’s investment of an additional $2,550,000 from FWC, combined with USFWS’s $2,550,000, achieved the $5 million needed to contain invasive exotic species in the Refuge. This proven successful partnership is the path forward to fund the work needed to attain containment of Lygodium and other invasive exotic plant species in the LNWR.
-The Refuge currently receives 17.5% of the roughly $10 million national budget available to combat invasive plants on all 565 national wildlife refuges covering over 100 million land acres.
-The Refuge had little to no control over its budget for controlling Lygodium, and in fact lease agreement Article V, section 2 calls for cooperation among agencies: “The District shall assist the Service in its efforts to seek additional funds for exotic species control.” Since when is eviction a synonym of cooperation?
-In the era of no earmarks and stagnant budgets, the Refuge applied for numerous grants to seek alternative funding sources for treatment of invasive exotics.
-The refuge is a major economic center and business in South Florida, providing more than $10 million in visitor expenditures alone, and creating services, jobs and economies that SFWMD does not provide. The Refuge’s environmental education program reaches 5,000 school children every year. Every dollar spent on the Refuge translates into $6.81 dollars of economic activity in the region associated with recreational activities. Why would the SFWMD want to drive such a valuable economic and social center from South Florida’s economy?