Audubon of Florida News

Topic: Everglades



National Research Council Releases 2014 “Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades”

posted on July 11, 2014 in Everglades

progresstowardrestoringtheeverglades-cover_2014The National Research Council released a new report assessing progress towards Everglades Restoration. This independent review stresses the need to re-invest in restoration efforts, noting that the ecosystem continues to be in peril. Insufficient funding and delays in project authorization have slowed the pace of restoration efforts, leaving this unique habitat cutoff from the freshwater flows that keep the Everglades healthy. View Audubon’s summary of the Report here.

Audubon urges state and federal decision-makers to heed the Review’s call to reinvest in science and monitoring, complete the Central Everglades Planning Project and accelerate restoration efforts in the face of rising seas and other impacts of climate change. 

The Lake Okeechobee Ecosystem: A Delicate Balance of Water

MacStone_LakeOkechobee-3614The marshes of Lake Okeechobee are a paradise of biodiversity. Everglade Snail Kites, Roseate Spoonbills, Tricolored Herons, and a plethora of other wildlife abound in this great ecosystem at the heart of the Greater Everglades.

For this incredible habitat to thrive, Lake Okeechobee’s water levels cannot be too high or too low. Marsh habitat drowns when water is too deep. When water is too low, marsh habitat dries up and is destroyed.

Last century, the Northern Everglades faced serious alterations to its natural system, as developers ditched and drained land. As a result, the natural system is off kilter and Lake Okeechobee now experiences rapid fluctuations in water levels. This results in harmful effects to the delicate Lake ecosystem. Water managers send large releases of Lake water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries for flood control. These releases have long term negative impacts on their ecosystems and local communities.

In addition, some water users in the south demand the Lake function as a reservoir for their water supply needs, despite the fragile nature of the ecosystem.

Lake Okeechobee’s natural balance of life must be protected. The Audubon Everglades Conservation Team advocates to state and federal partners to manage Lake Okeechobee with its precious ecosystem in mind. The long term fix is to store more water north of the Lake. Audubon supports Kissimmee River Restoration, easement programs, and partnerships with ranchers and landowners to achieve this goal. There are many exciting Everglades restoration initiatives that can help.

Lake Okeechobee’s water levels require proper management to protect this treasured habitat for years to come. Click the link below to download our fact sheet to learn more about the liquid heart of the Everglades. Please feel free to print and distribute at you next Audubon Chapter meeting or community gathering.

Click here to download fact sheet.

New Research Shows Python’s Navigational Ability May Be Key to Its Invasion Success

If you know you’ll always be able to find your way back home, you’ll probably be more willing to explore and visit new places, right? Recent research conducted in the Everglades by a collaboration of university and federal scientists found that Burmese pythons have navigational map and compass senses that allow them to find their way home at a scale never before documented in snakes. This may spell bad news for the continued spread of pythons across our state.

DCIM100GOPROBurmese pythons captured in Everglades National Park were implanted with radio transmitters, released in suitable habitat 21-36 km from their capture locations, and tracked from aircraft. Five of six pythons returned to within 5 km of their capture location, moving a maximum of nearly 2 kilometers per day (compared to a control group that moved a maximum of 0.5 kilometers per day). While the navigational mechanism is not yet understood, reptiles are known to use magnetic, celestial, olfactory (smell), and polarized light cues.

This type of research is critical not only to understanding the behavior and potential for spread of pythons here in Florida, but also for better understanding invasive species ecology in general. Many of these species come from remote or poorly-studied parts of the world where their ecology in their native range is undescribed. Furthermore, species introduced to new areas often behave somewhat differently than they do in their native range. While most experts believe Burmese pythons are here to stay in South Florida, better understanding them can help limit their spread and teach us valuable lessons than can be applied to new invaders.

State Budget Includes Record Amounts for Everglades

posted on May 2, 2014 in Everglades,State Government

Old Florida CapitolThe 2014 Florida Legislature is poised to finalize the 2015 budget and the Everglades is getting record amounts, including a whopping $90 million three-year commitment tomatch federal funds for Tamiami Trail bridging. The budget also funds a range of important projects and programs for the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and estuaries.

Other Everglades line items include $40 million for the C-44 reservoir project to help reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary, $32 million for the state’s Everglades Water Quality Plan, and $18 million for the C-43 reservoir to help improve the health of the Caloosahatchee Estuary. The budget also funds a number of projects to store and clean water throughout the Northern Everglades and estuaries.

While not giving specific numbers, the budget states that funds may be increased or decreased to expedite the completion of the Kissimmee River Restoration, C-111 South Dade, and the Picayune Strand restoration projects. These are three top priority projects which will help restore the flow of water from the Northern Everglades south to rehydrate Florida Bay.

Audubon acknowledges the Everglades Foundation for their leadership to increase Everglades funding. We will continue to advance the construction and operation of these projects through vigorous advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels.

This record Everglades budget is due in part to Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City) who convened a Select Senate Committee that held public hearings and recommended many of the projects in the budget.

Everglades_Approp_FY2015

click table to enlarge

 

#CEPP #WeCantWait

posted on April 30, 2014 in Everglades,Online Advocacy

City of Stuart Wins Audubon’s Excellence in Water Conservation Award

posted on April 29, 2014 in Chapters,Everglades,Water Issues

sammiCongratulations to the City of Stuart for receiving Audubon Florida’s third annual Excellence in Water Conservation Award.

Each April, Audubon recognizes an outstanding municipality or utility with the Excellence in Water Conservation award. Recipients must demonstrate a commitment to caring for Florida’s finite water resources.

The City of Stuart demonstrated an exceptional commitment to promote a community wide water ethic, under the leadership of project coordinator Mary Kindel. By implementing smart conservation techniques, Stuart successfully avoided the need to build a reverse osmosis plant – saving taxpayers an estimated $13 million.

Jane Graham presented Mayor Troy McDonald with the award at Monday’s City Commission meeting. Audubon of Martin County President John Nelson and South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Vice-Chairman Kevin Powers testified in support and congratulations to the City of Stuart.

Public education is a key focus of Stuart’s 20 year conservation program. Through community events like “Saturday in the Park”, rain barrel decoration contests, and school tours of the water treatment plant, Stuart is making water conservation a way of life for its residents. Notably, there is a water usage barometer in a prominent location in town so people can see how they are doing. Here’s a picture of Stuart’s water conservation mascot Sammi the Sailfish with the barometer “How low Can you Go?” In addition, the plan includes rebates and retrofits for showers, toilets, and other water saving devices for its residents and businesses.

Through these efforts, the City of Stuart aims to reduce water usage by 23% in 20 years. Since 2008, the city has already reduced water usage by 16%.

Keep it up Stuart. As Water Conservation Month comes to a close, we must conserve water year round. One in three Floridians depend on the Everglades for fresh water so conserving water means protecting the Everglades.

Previous winners of this award were Miami-Dade County and Cooper City.

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.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.

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
9:00am
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.

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