alligator, © Frank Lekich

Take Refuge: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Faces an Uncertain Future in Florida

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last remaining protected remnants of the northern Everglades left in Florida.

It’s a national treasure, providing ideal feeding and nesting habitat for more than 250 species of birds, including the largest colony of wading birds in the Everglades. Acting as a natural filter, the refuge also provides clean water for communities in South Florida. But now it’s in danger of being lost forever.

Loxahatchee isn’t like most other refuges. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) through a lease agreement with the South Florida Water Management District, which manages drinking water supplies and flood control in south Florida. Now the water management district wants to rescind the lease from the federal government, effectively closing the refuge for good.

The District contends that FWS has done a poor job at raising funds from Congress to manage invasive plant species on the refuge, as stipulated in the lease agreement. These non-native plants, such as melaleuca trees and Old World climbing fern, damage the dwindling Everglades habitat.  Yet the state has done a poor job itself of controlling invasive species in its surrounding Water Management District Areas. In fact, Loxahatchee became infested with Old World climbing fern from surrounding state-owned lands. Revoking the lease agreement will not solve this regional invasive species problem.

Many believe that the state’s true interest is to regain control of the refuge to manage it solely for water control and storage. The refuge is a Water Conservation Area (WCA), but is managed as a national wildlife refuge as per the agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Florida Water Management District. Without the refuge designation, Florida would then be free to pump more water into or out of Loxahatchee and send it downstream for development or agricultural use.

As a national wildlife refuge, Loxahatchee is maintained first and foremost to protect birds and other wildlife and their habitats. In contrast, protection is not guaranteed for wildlife in a WCA. If too much water is transferred into the area, the wetlands could become deeper — too deep to be useful habitat for wading birds that need shallow water to hunt. If too much water is drained out of the area, it could kill plants that birds depend on for shelter, and the mollusks and fish that the birds need to survive.

The Everglades, so named by early explorers for the grassy area (glades) that seemingly extended forever into the horizon, was once a massive network of forests, prairies and wetlands, a “river of grass” that flowed from the middle of Florida near Orlando, all the way down to the southern tip of Florida Bay. Today, while much of this ecosystem has been lost, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is an island unto itself of protected Everglades habitat. We can’t risk losing this precious part of an ecosystem that is so vital to Florida’s natural heritage.

That’s why we are asking you to contact Florida Governor Rick Scott and tell him to keep Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge exactly that – a refuge for the wildlife that depend on it.

The attempted takeover of Loxahatchee is just one more attack on our public lands systems. Great places like the Everglades belong to all Americans and should be protected for current and future generations. Now, more than ever, we must act to ensure that public lands remain in public hands.

This blog is part of an ongoing series on our National Wildlife Refuge system and the vital role that refuges play in protecting species and providing crucial habitat for wildlife. Check in regularly to hear from our field teams, policy experts and staff on Capitol Hill about new developments and continuing threats to these wild places and what you can do to help.

 

Take Action

Hundreds of species rely on this oasis of Everglades habitat. Tell officials to keep Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge protected!

Sign the Petition »

Categories: Wildlife

24 Responses to “Take Refuge: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Faces an Uncertain Future in Florida”

  1. Adele Wood

    Loxahatchee is a treasure of a wildlife refuge and gives experiences of a lifetime when visiting. When you go it’s like stepping back 20,000 years ago, safely!!, Because of the beautiful habitat sheltering and feeding hundreds of types of exquisite birds. At dawn great flocks rise up and fly to the nearby lakes area creating lovely silhouettes against a pink sky.
    Please get involved if not for yourselves then for the future children and families who will also treasure this last remaining Northern Everglades in its natural healthy flourishing state.
    Please sign the petition and call Governor Rick Scott through the highlighted area above thereby protecting this valuable Nature Refuge which is also a place of solace to the human soul. Thank you much.

  2. Kathleen Krall

    Loxahatchee is a treasure, people friendly while preserving the natural environment. Please do not upset the balance here by using it as a vheicle to move water or store water.

  3. Annette Rutkowski

    I am a frequent visitor to Florida not only in winter but other seasons too. The drive from Ohio is long but we do it primarily to stay and visit the Wildlife refuges. These are what makes Florida so beautiful and different from other states. We are thinking of buying a home in Florida but are distressed about too much development that is changing the character of the state. It is imperative that this and all the wildlife refuges be maintained. Viewing of wildlife is what makes Florida my number one destination for travel. We don’t drive 1200 miles to visit a mall.

  4. Loretta Stadler

    The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is a vital part of the Everglades eco-system. It is one of the last remaining protected area of the Everglades and should not lose protections. This is another attack on public lands for the benefit of agricultural and development use.

  5. Suzanne Hummer

    Please keep Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge what it is supposed to be. A safe place for wildlife!

  6. George Puharich

    As a frequent visitor to Florida over the past 40 years, I’d like to point out to Governor Rick Scott that what keeps drawing me back is not the carnival at Orlando or the science at Canaveral…but the vast expanses of natural Florida like the Everglades and the wildlife refuges like Ding Darling Reserve and the Loxahatchee Reserve. To lose anymore of these wonderful places would be to diminish the andappeal of this scenic state. You don’t need any more land to develop and your water supply is at serious risk already.

  7. Judith A Schenk

    Please save the refuge. Man has managed to wipe out so many. Why not make a good example and save this one!

  8. Leah Gibson-Corcoran

    Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last remaining protected remnants of the northern Everglades left in Florida.Places like the Everglades belong to all Americans and should be protected for current and future generations. Now, more than ever, we must act to ensure that public lands remain in public hands “forever”. We must think of all the species which call Loxahatchee home. We must not lose what wildspaces we have left.

  9. Ursula Campos

    Please keep Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge exactly that – a refuge for the wildlife that depend on it, it is such an important part of the eco system.

  10. Traci Williams

    Please save the Loxahatchee National Wildlife. Do not take the lease away. Preserve our wildlife

  11. Lorene Tompros

    Save the Loxahatchee National Park. Protect it for future generations!

  12. Adrienne Neff

    Please protect our last remaining wildlife and wild places from development.

  13. Airton Junior

    Please help to save and preserve to our future generations.
    Thanks.

  14. Christine Wood

    Please save this important area of our country and help the wildlife there to thrive. Thank you.

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