National Wildlife Refuge Protects our Natural Resources and Wildlife
By Veronica Haggar
National Lands Day, an event in which volunteers from all around the country come together to help preserve and maintain our natural spaces, was celebrated by Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Sept. 26th. by planting cypress trees on their public lands.
“National Public Lands Day is a nation wide event where people do all kinds of, you know, pull out weeds, or help boardwalks, or whatever is needed on public lands like national wildlife refugees, national parks and all that,” said Elinor Williams, president of Friends of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
A total of 600 seeds of cypress trees were ordered to plant in the public lands.
“We were trying to match the kind of trees we have here,” said Williams. “Which the natural native ones are pond cypress.”
This part of the land in which the seeds were being planted, used to be infested by Brazilian pepper, a plant classified as a Category I by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council on the 2015 List of Invasive Plant Species and listed as a ‘noxious weed’ by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Farmers cleared the land in order to get rid of all the Brazilian pepper and make room to plant the cypress trees.
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1951 protects the remnant of what was once a vast northern Everglades. The National Wildlife Refuge has been calling volunteers to take action and protect our natural resources and conserve the unique wildlife in Florida. More than 150 volunteers have offered over 14,640 hours of service.
“It’s one of 563 national wildlife refugees in the country,” stated Williams about the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. “The National Wildlife Refuge System is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, their mission is a little bit different from national parks,” explained Williams “National parks prime focus is on people, visitors, and recreation, wildlife refuges were formed basically to protect the habitat for wildlife.”
At the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge there are 270 different species of birds, including the endangered snail kites and wood stork. Some other animals that inhabit the Refuge are the American alligators, white-tailed deers, marsh rabbits, rat snakes, bobcats, river otters, Florida cricket frogs, and many others.
At the Visitor Center of the Refuge, everyone can appreciate exhibits about the Everglades and water management, listen to night sounds of the Everglades, experience a virtual airboat ride, watch a presentation about the Refuge and the Everglades, kids can crawl in and explore the gator hole, and at the gift shop visitors can purchase souvenirs.
“If you come here there’s a Visitor Center that has a lot of exhibits about the Everglades because this is the Everglades, this is the northern everglades,” affirms Williams.
Visitors can enjoy trips on canoes or kayaks, take guided bird and nature walks, go fishing, boating, biking, and explore the Marsh Trail, the Butterfly Garden, or the Cypress Swamp Boardwalk.
“This cypress forest used to stretch all the way from the eastern shore of lake Okeechobee all the way down to Fort Lauderdale but it was logged,” explained Williams. “This is one of the few remnants that’s left of the cypress swamp that we used to have.”
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