Audubon of Florida News

Topic: Everglades,Publications

Now Available: Audubon’s State of the Everglades Report – Spring 2014

posted on April 16, 2014 in Everglades,Publications

Audubon_SOTE_Spring_2014_coverMillions of wading birds – Spoonbills, Egrets, Herons and Storks – once dominated Everglades landscapes. Now their numbers have been reduced by 95%. Although a few species are showing some rebound, others just don’t have enough dependable foraging habitat to feed their young.

This spring issue of State of the Everglades provides an update on 2013’s wading birds.

Last year, over 48,000 wading birds nested in the Everglades.This is an improvement, but not enough. Restoration progress and success have contributed to an increase in nesting, but it is still just a fraction of restoration goals.

As Everglades advocates, we must learn what is happening to life throughout the ecosystem – from seagrasses and mangroves, to baitfish and top predators. It is a question of life and abundance. When fish and birds are scarce, there is something wrong with the system. When numbers of fish and birds rebound, the right things are being done. That information tells us the “State of Everglades.”

Take a moment to check out our latest report for a comprehensive and concise examination of these recent successes and other progress in the fight to restore the River of Grass.


Stand Up for Everglades Birds and Wildlife. Help Make CEPP a Reality.

posted on April 8, 2014 in Everglades,Water Issues

anhinga_macstoneAudubon Florida’s Everglades Team and advocates like you have worked for years to make restoration of the heart of the Everglades a reality. Now, your voice is needed on Thursday to seal the deal at the South Florida Water Management District.

On Thursday, April 10, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District will vote on sending a “Letter of Support” to the state and federal partners of the important Central Everglades Planning Project. Man-made changes have left the Everglades without enough clean water in the right place at the right time, causing a significant decline in nesting of indicator species like Roseate Spoonbills and Everglade Snail Kites.

CEPP will restore the heart of the ecosystem and flow water south from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay through a bundle of projects that store and clean water, redirect it south to rehydrate Florida Bay, and protect urban areas by preventing Everglades water from seepage.

Some of CEPP’s benefits for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem include:

  • Increasing wildlife habitat for native species
  • Decreasing harmful wet season flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries by finally sending water south
  • Delivering 70 billion gallons of freshwater to the southern ecosystem annually
  • Rehydrating aquifers for over 7 million people who rely on the Everglades for drinking water

For the Central Everglades, the time is now or never. SFWMD staff and the Army Corps, along with the environmental community and others have done a tremendous job of working together to develop a plan with unparalleled ecological benefits. If the Letter of Support is not approved next week, the future of this project could be in jeopardy.

Governing Board members need to hear from you about the importance of approving CEPP. Join Audubon Florida at the hearing to make your voice heard on Agenda item #34 for the Everglades.

April 10, 2014
SFWMD Headquarters
B-1 Auditorium
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33406

If you plan on attending, please click here to email Audubon’s Jane Graham for additional details.

Everglades Birds Are Talking. But Are We Listening?

posted on February 28, 2014 in Everglades,Lake Okeechobee,North Everglades,Wildlife

Roseate spoonbills and other shorebirds hunt on the mud flats during low tidesRoseate Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets, and White Ibis are not just beautiful and iconic inhabitants of the Everglades. They are important indicators of ecosystem health. Each year, Audubon Florida’s Everglades Conservation Team evaluates population numbers and nesting data to understand the progress of Everglades restoration.

Audubon’s scientists have finished evaluating the 2013 data. Our team is pleased to report that there were significant signs of progress for wading birds in the Everglades during this time.

Nesting efforts in 2013 were 57% higher than the average of the last three years. Over 48,200 wading bird nests were recorded.

The most encouraging data was from areas where restoration projects have improved freshwater flows. Early results from habitat impacted by the new C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project are providing hope for Florida’s wading birds.

The recently completed C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project created a nine mile hydraulic ridge that increases natural flows into Taylor Slough, a critical flow path that carries water through the heart of Everglades National Park and into Florida Bay. Data from the first year of operation suggests measurable improvement in Roseate Spoonbill habitat – one of Audubon’s priority Atlantic Flyway species.

While restoration work is improving Everglades habitat, important work remains. Despite the positive 2013 nesting data, wading bird numbers are still well below restoration targets. Some species are doing better than others. Great Egrets and White Ibis have shown stable population growth, while populations of smaller birds like Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and Snowy Egrets have declined.

The future of Florida’s wading birds are dependent on projects that restore the natural flow of freshwater to the Everglades. Audubon Florida is working to make sure that key restoration projects like the Central Everglades Planning Project and the next phase of the Tamiami Trail Bridge are implemented as quickly as possible.

For more information, please download Audubon’s latest Fact Sheet: 2013 Wading Bird Nesting in the EvergladesPlease feel free to print and share at your next Audubon Chapter meeting or community event.

Audubon’s Eric Draper: “Something incredible happened”

posted on February 27, 2014 in Everglades,State Government,Water Issues

rainbowspringsDid you see the following message from Audubon’s Eric Draper:

It’s been a difficult year. Last summer’s shocking images from our waterways are not easy to forget. Dead and dying pelicans, manatees, and dolphins. Florida’s once pristine springs covered in algae. Local fisherman and eco-tourism businesses struggling to stay open. For anyone who loves natural Florida, the crisis in our waterways has been a tragedy.

But something incredible happened. People took matters into their own hands. They demanded that their legislators fix the problems and clean up our water. Thousands of people like you wrote letters, attended rallies, signed petitions, and contacted media. For the first time in years our public officials started to pay attention to Florida’s water.

Unfortunately, some legislators have different ideas. It was disappointing to see Speaker of the House Will Weatherford say that there will be no major water policy this year.

Can you believe it? Does he know what has happened to Florida’s water?

As environmental advocates, we must make it loud and clear that “no” is simply not good enough.

The 2014 Florida Legislative Session starts next week. Will you help us defend Florida’s rivers, lakes, and springs?

Thanks to people like you, Florida’s water is at the forefront of state politics. But how far we make it during the legislative session is yet to be determined. Every legislator needs to hear that you care before they cast a vote that affects our incredible water resources.

Make no mistake, your efforts matter. But it takes a serious commitment to compete with well-funded industry lobbyists who want nothing more than for us to be quiet and stop speaking up for our natural resources.

This is the most critical Legislative Session for Florida’s water in years. Don’t let the momentum we’ve built go to waste.

State Senator Garrett Richter Supports Dispersed Water Management in News-Press

posted on in Everglades,Water Issues

Taylor Slough by SFWMDSenator Garrett Richter (R-Naples) is on the right track with his strong op-ed appearing in the Fort Myers News-Press urging more funding for the South Florida Water Management District’s Dispersed Water Management program.

This year the district qualified 24 projects for ranchers and citrus growers to convert parts of their farms to literally “farm water”, that is impound, or hold back water restoring water levels, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and slow the flow of water toward Lake Okeechobee and the fragile estuaries. Unfortunately, SFWMD only has enough funds to proceed with a small fraction of the projects that could be built. If all  24 of these projects were built, more than 100,000 acre feet of water (a single acre-foot is equal to about 326,000 gallons)would be held back from cascading toward Lake Okeechobee and the Estuaries.

This year, Audubon was pleased to be able to advocate the approval of a final Corps of Engineers permit to build the largest Dispersed Water Management project of all – the 16,000 acre, 30,000 acre-foot Nicodemus Slough project by the Lykes Brothers Corporation.  Under Dispersed Water Mangement, landowners are paid an annual fee to construct water retention works on their land and operate those works to specifications approved by the SFWMD.

Audubon has produced a short video about some of these projects and their significant environmental value:

Audubon Everglades Headwaters from Scott B. Taylor on Vimeo.

Everglades Day at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

posted on February 19, 2014 in Chapters,Events,Everglades

EvergladesDay_Alligator_2014_LoxahatcheeThe 15th annual Everglades Day was held February 8 at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Audubon Society of the Everglades, located in Palm Beach County, is one of the main organizers of this family-friendly annual event. Over two thousand attendees enjoyed guided nature walks, canoeing, educational exhibits, a great line-up of speakers, and other fun activities.

EvergladesDay_2014_LoxahatcheeLoxahatchee is home to Wood Storks, Everglade Snail Kites, alligators, bobcats, river otters, and lots of other wildlife. The refuge also serves as a Water Conservation Area and provides flood control for surrounding areas, and helps improve water supply in addition to providing important habitat for wildlife.

Thanks to the members of Audubon of the Everglades who help make this event such a great success!

If you missed the fun this year, you can still visit the refuge which is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Learn more about the refuge and plan your visit here:



Take Action: Support the Picayune Strand Restoration Project in the Western Everglades

posted on February 12, 2014 in Everglades,Water Issues,Wildlife

picayune_RestorationOn Thursday, February 13, the Governing Board for the SFWMD will consider supporting the completion of the Picayune Strand restoration project by sending a letter of support for Congress to raise the authorized project cost.

This is the biggest single habitat restoration project in all of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The benefits of Picayune Strand total over 75,000 acres of wetland and habitat restored, plus thousands of acres of estuary restoration in the Ten Thousand Islands.

Numerous portions of this project are now complete, such as the Prairie Canal, Merritt Canal Pump and Spreader Canal, and miles of road removal. Endangered Florida panthers and Wood Storks are starting to return to the area as hydrology has been restored. The project is a critical restoration link for major adjacent public lands including the Florida Panther Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, Rookery Bay Reserve, and the Ten Thousand Islands Refuge.

picayune_wildlifeOriginally authorized in the last Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in 2007, its total cost has increased due to additional required features on the large engineering components. Without this increase, we will have spent $500 million over 30 years and not be able to realize much of the restoration benefits.


The Governing Board is expected to approve this letter of support, but when it comes to money, nothing is taken for granted. Let the Governing Board know that you support this important Everglades project, send an email to Marcia Kivett right now.

Or, you can stop by the 9am meeting on Thursday, February 13 if you’re in Ft. Myers at Lee County Commission Chambers, 2120 Main Street, Ft. Myers, FL 33901.

Please click here for a fact sheet with more information on the Picayune Strand Restoration Project.

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart Honored as Everglades Champion

posted on February 11, 2014 in Everglades

Audubon_Diaz-Balart_Draper_Award_Feb14Everglades advocate Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was honored with Audubon’s prestigious Champion of the Everglades award. Congressman Diaz-Balart co-founded the Everglades Caucus in the US House of Representatives, and as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, lead efforts to ensure funding for the construction of important Everglades restoration projects, including the recently completed C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project and the first phase of the Tamiami Trail bridge.

“Audubon proudly honors Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart with our Champion of the Everglades award,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida’s Executive Director. “Congressman Diaz-Balart has shown strong leadership leading to real results for America’s River of Grass, demonstrating that progress is the result of patience, hard work, and partnership. His leadership in the Florida Congressional delegation has kept the Everglades on the top of the nation’s ecosystem priority list, year after year. Congressman Diaz-Balart knows the true value of Everglades restoration projects realized for both Florida’s economy and the environment.”

The event was held in Miami’s Design District and was attended by Audubon staff and other Everglades supporters. Upon receiving the award Congressman Diaz-Balart pledged “The Everglades is one of our state’s natural treasures and I will continue to fight for its preservation.” 

Audubon Celebrates Groundbreaking for Everglades Water Quality Project

posted on January 21, 2014 in Everglades,State Government,Water Issues

Eric at A1 FEB groundbreakingLast week, Audubon Florida celebrated the groundbreaking of the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin - the first in a suite of projects in Gov. Scott’s $880 million Restoration Strategies plan to store and cleanse water before it flows south to the Everglades.

Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper addressed the audience at the groundbreaking ceremony, emphasizing the importance of the federal and state partnership to advance Everglades restoration and water quality improvements.

“The A-1 Flow Equalization Basin project is a major step toward implementing the Restoration Strategies plan to help ensure clean water flows into the Everglades. Audubon Florida has long advocated for the next wave of action to restore our treasured wetlands. The A-1 FEB project is a good example of the type of water cleansing project needed to protect our beautiful River of Grass, ” said Eric Draper.
men and their shovels a1feb groudnbreakingGov. Scott’s Everglades water quality plan will build and enhance the performance of treatment areas that clean up water before it enters the Everglades. The A-1 FEB project will temporarily store up to 60,000 acre feet of water flowing off of agricultural lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area to attenuate peak stormwater flows and deliver them at a steady rate to water treatment areas (STA-2 and STA-3/4 ) to improve their performance. As Sec. Vinyard stated at the ceremony, 60,000 acre feet equals “30,000 Olympic sized swimming pools  of clean water going to the Everglades.”

After the ceremony, Eric Draper joined representatives from the state of Florida and federal agencies  with a shovel to break ground on this project!

It was freezing and windy outside during the ceremony, but any day an Everglades project  begins construction is a good day for Everglades water quality!

Everglades Coalition Recognizes Audubon Chapter Leader Cynthia Plockelman’s Grassroots Activism

posted on January 14, 2014 in Chapters,Everglades

Pauline Stacey & Cynthia Plockelman with the awardThis past weekend, Audubon Florida and our chapters and allies celebrated Everglades restoration progress and discussed next steps at the 29th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.

Congratulations to Audubon Society of the Everglades President Cynthia Plockelman, for receiving the Everglades Coalition’s 2014 John Kabler Grassroots Activism Award. The Kabler Award is awarded to someone who has worked to organize and educate the public and generate grassroots support for Everglades restoration.

After retiring from a 40 year career at the South Florida Water Management District where she managed their reference center and archives, Cynthia became a full-time grassroots environmental advocate. She is a tireless voice for Everglades restoration, wildlife conservation and protecting our water, attending numerous meetings at local, regional, and state levels, and speaking with decision makers. In addition to being the president of Audubon Society of the Everglades and a former Audubon Florida board member, Cynthia is active with the Everglades Coalition, Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida Native Plant Society, Society of the Everglades, and several other environmental organizations.

The Coalition saluted Cynthia’s lifetime of unwavering support for the Everglades and Florida’s native plants and wildlife, and recognized her at the Saturday banquet with a Clyde Butcher photograph.

Congrats Cynthia!

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