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Enjoy these 2019 Audubon Photography Award Winners. Check out the photos and the story behind the shots! You'll find winners from Delray Beach, Wakodahatchee Wetlands and Circle Bar-B Ranch in Lakeland. PRAS will be heading up there for a field trip this coming season. Watch for the date!
The National Geographic photographer shows 60 Minutes how his shots come together and why he started his Photo Ark project
Joel Sartore, an acclaimed National Geographic photographer, is a man on a mission. He's trying to photograph every species, every animal, bird, fish, reptile and insect, in captivity. As we first reported back in 2018, Joel Sartore sides with scientists who estimate that half the species alive today could be extinct by the end of this century. So he travels to zoos all around the world to take pictures of what we're losing and to ignite conservation efforts to prevent extinctions. He calls his project: The Photo Ark.
Site Status Report provides comprehensive up-to-the minute information for hundreds of water control structures throughout the SFWMD water management system, organized by regions for ease of navigation. It shows the current volume of water being moved and the water level upstream and downstream at each location. It also shows the daily water level for lakes and other large water bodies. Companion maps, on the far right tab, show key locations with real-time information of volumes of water being moved and daily water levels.
Ever so slightly, ever so slowly, Lake Okeechobee's water level is creeping lower.
Hundredth of an inch by hundredth of an inch. Which is a lot, considering the massive lake is 730 square miles in size.
The "Liquid Heart of Florida," as it has been called, looks pretty from its shoreline. Blue water. Green grass islands. Vegetation along its shores, lush and thriving. Wildlife and birds are everywhere, going about their business.
As of April 24, the level of Lake Okeechobee measured at 11.36 feet, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. I'll explain the numbers later in this column.
What signs indicate the lake is shrinking? Well, they're very subtle right now. For instance, the tops of the reef balls are showing underneath the fishing and observation pier at Jaycee Park near the city of Okeechobee on the lake's northern point.
To me, that's always the sign the lake is below the 12-foot mark. It also means a few other things:
Boaters need to begin to use caution when running the lake. A boat running at high speed could strike a shoal or submerged object, causing damage or injury.
Three of the small locks between the rim canal and the lake are closed to boat traffic: S-135, J & S Fish Camp; G-36, Henry Creek; and S-127, Buckhead Ridge
Cross-lake boat traffic on the Okeechobee Waterway needs to use caution as navigation channel depth is at 5.30 feet
Water flowing toward the Caloosahatchee River will reach minimal or eventually zero flows
Good things that can happen when it gets low:
Sunlight reaches the submerged aquatic vegetation
The enhanced habitat helps provide a healthier nursery for numerous fish species
There is a decreased chance of harmful discharges toward the estuaries by summer's end
So what does a lake level of 11.36 feet mean? The number indicates the level of the lake's surface as measured against sea level. It is not an indicator of the lake's depth, which is much shallower. The deepest spot in all of Lake Okeechobee is about 12 feet when the water level is average. Most of its area is shallow enough to wade, that is, if there weren't tens of thousands of alligators living there.
Does this mean boaters can't fish? Not at all. David Crandall of Okeechobee caught some nice bass earlier this week. I asked him if the low water was a problem. He said boaters do need to be careful.
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"Boaters need to idle in toward their spots and idle out to deeper water before getting on plane," Crandall said. "Otherwise, you might have to push your boat off a shoal."
How does the present level stack up? There is a growing concern among several stakeholders about the lake's level. March really fanned those fears when the 16-county area in the South Florida Water Management District received a record low 0.25 inches of rainfall average. That is a full 2.25 inches below the average for the month of March. April has been slightly better, except for the Southwest Florida area of Lee, Collier and Monroe counties, where it still has not rained.
Here are some Lake Okeechobee figures for comparison:
11.36 feet (April 24, 2020)
11.45 feet (April 24, 2019)
13.24 feet (April 24, 2018)
9.82 feet (April 24, 2007)
8.82 feet (July 2, 2007, all-time record low)
9.64 feet (June 16, 2011, low for the year)
13.16 feet (Jan. 1, 2020)
Here is why this matters. Since 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the level of Lake Okeechobee, has operated using a document called the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule 2008 (LORS08). It was developed as a result of the catastrophic events after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In 1926 and 1928, two hurricanes hit Lake Okeechobee head on. Over 2,800 lives were lost in the flooding in the lakeside communities such as Moore Haven, Port Mayaca, Canal Point, Pahokee and Belle Glade. President Herbert Hoover and Congress authorized the construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike.
It is 143 miles in circumference encircling Lake Okeechobee and was completed in 1933. Prior to 2008, the Army Corps determined the dike needed to be fortified to protect the lakeside communities from flooding in the future.
LORS08 calls for the Corps to manage the lake between a level of 12.5 feet on June 1 and 15.5 feet by Dec. 1 each year. These dates are important because this six-month period is what we Floridians know as hurricane season.
Is managing a 467,000-acre lake with a 3-foot range of depth doable? Seems so. However, Florida's unpredictable rainfall always throws a wrench in the Corps' plans. For example, Tropical Storm Fay drifted across Central Florida in August 2008 and dumped 24 inches of rain in 24 hours. Lake Okeechobee rose 4 feet in three weeks.
So the lake being at 11.36 feet is well below the 12.5-foot mark a little more than a month before June 1. That's a good thing if you live on a coast near the St. Lucie River or Caloosahatchee River. Any lake level above that mark means harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee are coming your way to start the summer. It's why we've endured "Lost Summers" in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.
What about the toxic algae? In recent years, we have had to factor in toxic cyanobacteria blooms. The great lake has turned a fluorescent green each summer as the tiny single-celled organisms multiply and collect.
Scientists have linked this to neurological diseases such as ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and more. Research has discovered the algae is found in the air, and can be breathed in by those exposed to it.
There are already signs of the algae beginning to form, as much as a month sooner than in previous years. That can't be good. However, if the Corps does not discharge water from Lake Okeechobee or the C-44 and C-43 canals, the coastal estuaries in Stuart and Fort Myers may be spared this year.
That is, as long as the rainfall amounts are average.
Low humidity triggers wildfire watch as drought provides fields of tinder in Everglades National Park and state-owned land in South Florida.
A wildfire fire sparked by mistake and fed by drought burned more than 1,200 acres in South Florida's Everglades and continues to smolder despite pockets of
drenching rain over the weekend.
The so-called Sunday Afternoon fire that has seared sawgrass prairie, melaleuca and Australian Pine in Everglades National Park began April 19 and was 70 percent contained as of Monday.
Fires on adjacent state-owned land were mostly extinguished, but concerns are mounting that
relaxed coronavirus orders could mean more unintended ignitions with 65 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought.
"Now that things are beginning to open up a little bit, people will probably start going out and there's a greater chance of something happening that could start a fire," said Scott Peterich, a Florida Forest Service wildfire mitigation specialist in Palm Beach County. "It's been so dry, but all the parks are closed so you didn't have anyone in them."
Everglades research director presents a state-of the-nation's environment on Earth Day 2020
Florida Gulf Coast University's Everglades Wetland Research Park (EWRP) Director Dr. Bill Mitsch presented an Earth Day webinar at the invitation of Federal agency National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Earth Day, April 22, 2020, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day. The one-hour remote presentation was attended by 548 participants from all over the world.
James Turek, a restoration ecologist at NOAA's Restoration Center in Narragansett, Rhode Island, introduced Mitsch at the webinar by recounting the significance of the first Earth Day, in 1970, to Mitsch's environmental science and engineering career path. Mitsch was then working for energy giant Commonwealth Edison in Chicago, but after that first Earth Day he lobbied relentlessly to join their new Environmental Affairs department, which a year later led him to graduate school at the University of Florida specializing in environmental engineering sciences and later systems ecology under well-known ecologist H. T. Odum.
He has been an ecologist and ecological engineer ever since.
In his talk on environmental developments through the past 50 years, Mitsch suggested that while there are some signs of progress over the past 50 years, too many problems remain on the fiftieth anniversary of that first Earth Day: "As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day . . . our over-crowded, climatically challenged, and poorly managed planet is now threatened even more than it was 50 years ago."
Mitsch stated that "Covid-19 is perhaps Nature reminding us that we may have now gone just too far." He also called Florida policies allowing use of poisons such as glyphosate in south Lake Okeechobee an "arrogant attempt to control Nature," and stated that though such practices are named restoration, "they are not." Recent reductions of Federal involvement in wetland protection after 45 years of the Clean Water Act were described as "unfortunate, as we need wetland ecosystem services today more than ever."
But Mitsch also detailed his promising, optimistic "wetlaculture" (wetlands + agriculture) landscape renewal research at the EWRP which is meant to "reduce the relentless application of fertilizers across our agricultural landscape while restoring and creating wetland habitats to make up for the gigantic losses of wetlands worldwide. Through wetlaculture, now being developed as a business approach in
collaboration with Business Professor Sam Miller from the University of Notre Dame, "farmers and investors could make a profit either by farming or creating wetlands, and downstream waters will be cleaner too."
Response to the webinar was overwhelmingly appreciative. Dennis P. Vasey, Chairman of the Water Symposium of Florida, Inc., and a member of the EWRP advisory committee, applauded the presentation by saying that it offered "a logical process of why we need wetlands and a takeaway that would reduce agricultural fertilizer use and improve water quality," adding, "As I consider the presentation, Dr. Mitsch gave us a gift!" From Ecuador, John Porterfield, a volunteer with Citizens' Climate Change Lobby, wrote that the webinar "was truly excellent," saying, "I enjoyed the pace, which created nice 'space' between the milestones of the presentation, and maintained near-continuous cogitation! Videos spliced into presentation were a highlight!" Biology professor Sister Rosine Sobczak of Lourdes College in Toledo, Ohio, concurred: "I really enjoyed your presentation! I know we have problems, but it was good to see the research to back them up. Keep on doing what you are doing and spreading the message." And Gwen Ginocchio of Costa Mesa, California wrote: "Thank for your talk on wetlands. I learned many things. You've given us hope on Earth Day."
The webinar can be found on NOAA's YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/6YuCxE2RoGQ
5 reasons this hurricane season may be a big deal
by: David Yeomans
Ocean temperatures are running a fever
A large swath of the Gulf of Mexico is currently 2.8-3.5°F warmer than average, and much of the tropical Atlantic is
running warm as well. This is fuel for developing hurricanes later this summer, and can make rapid intensification episodes more likely, like Hurricane Harvey.
El Niño is not expected to develop this summer/fall
In fact, the near-neutral pattern we see currently could even transition to a weak La Niña pattern by fall. El Niño makes it harder for hurricanes to form by increasing wind shear over the tropical Atlantic. The neutral or La Niña pattern we expect this hurricane season would nurture developing hurricanes.
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is in a warm cycle
This less-oft discussed ocean cycle is still in a warm phase, which also contributes to more active Atlantic hurricane seasons.
All official forecasts are predicting a busy season
12 different official forecasts from both human forecasters and computer models are all pointing to a busier than average hurricane season. A normal season brings 6 Atlantic hurricanes, but these are predicting an average of 8 this year.
Texas has a 47% chance of being hit by a hurricane this year,
second only to Florida
...much higher than our average yearly risk of 33%. There is also a 19% chance that Texas sees a major hurricane landfall - higher than our average risk of 12%. The U.S. as a whole has a 30% higher than average threat of a hurricane landfall this year, all according to Colorado State University researchers.
Lunch & Learn Workshop - Central Florida Water Initiative
April 29, 2020, 11:30 AM
DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, April 29, 2019, 11:30 AM
LOCATION: Zoom Webinar
or, view online at https://www.sfwmd.gov or https://www.youtube.com/sfwmdtv
This workshop will be conducted online in order to permit maximum attendance from the public and Governing Board Members of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The public is invited to view the workshop live on SFWMD's YouTube channel at YouTube.com/SFWMDTV. A link to the meeting's live stream will also be posted on SFWMD's homepage
(www.sfwmd.gov) shortly before the workshop is scheduled to begin.
No Governing Board action will be taken at this online workshop.
2020 edition of our gorgeous The Best of Birds & Blooms book
Celebrate another amazing year of birding and gardening with our brand-new edition of
The Best of Birds & Blooms. This inspiring collection highlights our
top tips, ideas and
photos from last year's
Birds & Blooms and
Birds & Blooms EXTRA magazines-all in one convenient book!
Just look at all you'll enjoy:
200+ birding & gardening tips from the pros and enthusiasts like you.
320+ full-color photos of birds, blooms and butterflies.
Top 10 plant picks & zone maps help you maximize flowers & maintain a lush garden.
Native plant charts show you what bird-attracting plants to include in your landscape.
Bird profiles and interesting facts on flight, migration and more!
Sourced and written from hundreds of research papers and dozens of interviews the book chronicles, in layman's terms, a history of the unwelcome appearance of red tide and blue-green algae in Southwest Florida's coastal estuaries beginning in the 16th century up until the present day.
Then, using the most current available medical research, it discusses the effects of the algae outbreaks on human health, and concludes with a critical review of state and federal efforts to deal with a growing problem affecting residents and visitors.
The book is intended to inform and create a call to action by politicians and regulatory agencies before the problem overwhelms the economy of southwest Florida.
Seafood lovers who prize the mussel for its earthy taste and succulent flesh may be unaware of its growing potential in the fight against water pollution.
The mussel is the hoover of the sea, taking in phytoplankton for nourishment along with microplastics, pesticides and other pollutants-which makes it an excellent gauge.
One day, it may also be pressed into service to cleanse water.
"It's a super-filter in the marine world, filtering up to 25 litres of water a day," says marine biologist Leila Meistertzheim.
"It's a real model of bioaccumulation of pollutants generally speaking."
As they pump and filter the water through their gills in order to feed and breathe, mussels store almost everything else that passes through-which is why strict health rules apply for those destined for
Like canaries in a coal mine, mussels have long been used as "bio-indicators" of the health of the seas, lakes and rivers they inhabit.
Little-known pollutants can turn up to join the usual suspects, with increasing attention paid to microplastics containing bisphenol A and phthalates, both thought to be endocrine disruptors.
Meistertzheim heads a study for France's Tara Ocean Foundation using mussels to gauge the health of the estuaries of the Thames, Elba and Seine rivers.
The mussels, placed in fish traps, are submerged in the waters for a month before researchers dissect them to determine what chemical substances lurk in their tissues.
The idea of deploying mussels across the oceans to absorb ubiquitous microplastics is just a dream for now, but for other pollutants, the bivalves are already at work.
"In some places, mussels are used, as well as oysters, to cleanse the sea of pesticides, for example," Meistertzheim notes.
E. coli busters
Richard Luthy, an environmental engineer from California's Stanford University, says that, in most cases, mussels harvested from contaminated waters should not be eaten.
But if the contaminant is E. coli, mussels can be thanked for the "removal and inactivation" of the faecal material, he says, calling the service a "public health benefit".
The mussels are edible because they "excrete the bacteria as faeces or mucus," he says.
Mussels living in waterways affected by eutrophication-often marked by abundant algae-are also fit for human consumption, researchers say.
The phenomenon is often the result of waste dumped into the waterway containing phosphates and nitrites, such as detergents, fertilisers and sewage.
The nutrients in these substances encourage the proliferation of algae, which in turn starves the water of oxygen, upsetting the ecosystem.
Mussels "recycle" these nutrients by feeding on the algae, says Eve Galimany, a researcher of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Milford Laboratory who has experimented with mussels in the Bronx River in New York.
The recycling principle is already at work in a pilot project titled Baltic Blue Growth in Sweden, Denmark and the Baltic countries which grows mussels to be fed to animals such as poultry, fish and pigs.
"Eutrophication... is the biggest problem of the Baltic Sea, the most urgent one," says project head Lena Tasse. Mussels "could be part of a solution".
Why feed them to animals if they are safe for humans? Because Baltic mussels are too small to be of interest to seafood lovers, says Tasse, adding: "Swedes like big mussels."
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on the effects of microplastics on human health.
A recent report by WWF said that humans ingest an average of five grammes of microplastics a week-about the weight of a credit card.
A 2018 study published in the journal
Environmental Pollution, based on samples from British coastlines and supermarkets, estimated that every 100 grammes (3.5 ounces) of mussels contained 70 tiny pieces of plastic.
Should we be worried? Meistertzheim thinks not.
"I eat them," she says. "A dish of
mussels is not necessarily worse than organic hamburger meat wrapped in plastic."
S.3422 Great American Outdoors Act
This is a bill introduced in the Senate to fully dedicate funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The fund accrues up to $900 million annually, but that full amount has only been appropriated twice-typically more than half gets siphoned off for other purposes.
This new bill will ensure that all of the money goes into conserving land and water resources every year. It only needs two more cosponsors to have a supermajority. And
guess what? There are two FL senators from our neck of the woods who haven't signed on ��
Info on bill can be found at the two following links.
Under current law, the LWCF receives 12.5% of federal oil and gas revenue generated in the gulf, up $900m a year, although appropriations have been much less. For FY 2019 Florida received $7,800,00 for matching grants
US Sen. Bill Cassidy, chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Energy Subcommittee, and ENR Committee Chair, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, introduced legislation on Aug. 2 that aims to reform federal offshore revenue-sharing for Gulf Coast states.
US Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Energy Subcommittee, and ENR Committee Chair, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), introduced legislation on Aug. 2 that not only aims to reform federal offshore oil and gas revenue-sharing for Gulf Coast states but also would create a new offshore revenue sharing program for future offshore energy production in Alaska.
Sens. John N. Kennedy (R-La.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alas.), Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) are cosponsors.
Louisiana constitutionally dedicates revenues from offshore energy production to pay for conservation, restoration, and environmental projects to preserve and restore its eroding coastline, Cassidy noted.
"Louisiana's coastline infrastructure is critical for America's energy and economic security," Cassidy said. "This legislation creates equal treatment for Louisiana's offshore revenue sharing and secures the funds needed to strengthen our state's coastal restoration efforts."
Kennedy added, "This bill makes it clear that Louisiana needs an equitable portion of the revenue made off our coast from offshore drilling. Louisiana is leading the US toward energy independence. However, we have to invest in restoring our coastline and ensuring the safety of our coastal families and jobs from hurricanes. This bill will allow us to make those investments."
Called the Conservation of America's Shoreline Terrain and Aquatic Life (COASTAL) Act, the bill also would increase revenue available for the Land and Water Conservation Fund's (LWCF) financial assistance to states. Cumulative dollars available to states receiving revenue payments under the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) for the fund are capped at $500 million. The COASTAL Act would eliminate this cap, Cassidy said.
The legislation also protects GOMESA payments from future sequestration cuts and makes oil and gas leases from 2000-06 eligible for future GOMESA payments to Gulf Coast states. According to the US Department of Interior, in 2018 Gulf Coast states could have received an additional $247 million for environmental protection in 2018 if more offshore leases were GOMESA eligible, Cassidy said.
The bill also creates an additional authorized use of dollars for planning, engineering, operations, and maintenance of federally authorized projects, Cassidy said.
A National Ocean Industries Association official welcomed the measure. "By amending GOMESA and establishing a revenue-sharing program for Alaska, the COASTAL Act will ensure that these states receive continued benefits from their participation in offshore energy production, while still protecting an irreplaceable revenue stream for the US Treasury, the LWCF, historic preservation, and other important federal funding priorities," said Tim Charters, NOIA's vice-president for government and political affairs.
"Congress must connect the dots between responsible offshore energy development and the critical funding it can provide the American public. This bill is a step in that direction," Charters said.
Support biennial Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA)
Supporting biennial Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA), legislation authorizing Corps of Engineers' work on locks and dams, dredging and other water resources projects critical to the nation.
Maintaining water resources bills on an every two-year cycle is important to waterways modernization continuity. Congress ended with a "WIIN" in WRDA 2016. In 2018, Congress passed America's Water Infrastructure Act, which included the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018. We now look ahead to a WRDA bill in 2020.
America's Water Infrastructure Act, which included the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018: did not include authorization language to allow for lockage fees and/or tolls on the inland waterways system. WCI has been adamantly opposed to any additional taxation, tolling, or lockage fees for the inland waterways transportation system. authorized 12 Chief's Reports, including one that will be funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (Three Rivers in Southeast, AR). authorized three project modifications, including the Post Authorization Change Report for Chickamauga Lock. This will ensure that the Chickamauga project can continue construction once the project has reached its original authorized amount. directed the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to evaluate the current organizational structure of the Corps' Civil Works function, to identify impediments to efficient project delivery, and to provide recommendations to Congress.
Originally, Duck Stamps sold for $1. Today you can buy a Duck Stamp for $25. Proceeds from the Duck Stamp are used primarily to secure habitat, with 98% of the revenue devoted to purchasing or leasing migratory bird habitat. In total, the Duck Stamp has raised more than $850 million to conserve waterfowl habitat. Waterfowl hunting-one of the main causes of near extinction of the Wood Duck at the turn of the century-is now generating funds to support waterfowl population recovery. Read our article to find out how you can be a part of the success story.
The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is nestled between the boggy wetlands and glistening ponds of Montana's Bitterroot Valley. Inside, near a cluttered display of taxidermy birds - a tall American white pelican with a bright orange beak and an osprey caught in midflight - Frances "Wa" Correia greets visitors. The 92-year-old has been volunteering here for 15 years, fielding questions, answering the phone and keeping the kiosk outside filled up with pamphlets. It's work she enjoys doing. Still, as the number of full-time professional staff dwindles, volunteers like Correia are forced to take on even more tasks, while other important projects are left undone.
The refuge once employed 13 people to manage and study its land. Now, it has only three full-time staffers and one seasonal worker. Consequently, key jobs - such as bird migration surveys, weed management and prescribed wildfires - are being left unfinished. This is a problem plaguing the entire National Wildlife Refuge System, which has suffered from a string of budget cuts and a shrinking staff for the last decade or more.
That means that refuges nationwide have fewer scientists, reduced law enforcement and a lack of habitat restoration. As a result, one of the system's central responsibilities - to protect and restore wildlife habitat - is falling by the wayside.
The National Wildlife Refuge System, a branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, protects more than 850 million acres of land and water. From the marshy Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to arid landscapes like the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, the Refuge System is home to nearly every species of bird, fish, reptile and amphibian in the U.S., making it the world's largest collection of habitats set aside for wildlife conservation. Around 50 million people visit the nation's refuges each year.
But funding has not kept up with the system's needs. Accounting for inflation, the overall Refuge System budget has decreased by almost 18% since 2010. As a result, the number of staff is currently around 2,600, which is an almost 20% drop from 2013. Additionally, as of 2015, there were only 318 refuge officers, down 65% from 1990, according to the
2015 annual report. Fewer officers mean higher chances of damaged property and hunting violations, a matter of particular concern since the Trump administration is opening up additional refuge acreage to
hunting and fishing.
On a sunny, early-October afternoon, a cacophony of birdsong - the staccato chirp of the Song Sparrow against the loud whistle of the European Starling - could be heard throughout the 2,800-acre Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. A group of visitors sat on descending rows of stairs, shaped like an open-air theater, as they watched trumpeter swans glide across the shimmering pond.
While budget and staff cuts may not diminish this experience, they do dampen scientists' understanding of the local avian population, which includes some 240 species of migratory birds. Deborah Goslin, the refuge's former biological technician, used to spend her days surveying the migrations of waterfowl, raptor and shorebirds and studying their responses to floods, wildfire burns and other environmental changes.
Goslin was let go, however, and now no one is doing that work. These days, the refuge leans heavily on volunteers, especially for less specialized tasks, such as running the environmental education program or staffing the visitor center. But even with that help, the visitor center is closed many days due to insufficient staffing. "There's so much information right behind that door," said volunteer Richard Davis, "and it's not even available."
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The Trump administration's budget cuts are hitting all the public-land agencies. But the National Wildlife Refuge System has been struggling for years, never receiving the funding and recognition that it needs, said Geoff Haskett, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, a nonprofit based in D.C. "I don't think it's a Democrat or Republican thing," he said. He suspects that some of the Refuge System's woes stem from its lack of visibility compared to, say, national parks. But despite these challenges, said Haskett, keeping refuges working remains crucial. Not only do they protect some of the country's most iconic ecosystems and wildlife, refuges allow the public to connect with the nature around them.
That's the part that keeps Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge Manager Tom Reed going. A few years ago, a family traveled all the way from Hong Kong to the refuge just to go birding, Reed recalled. "Seeing the joy on the face of what they just observed, it humbles me," he said. "It makes me realize how lucky I am to look out at this refuge each day."
Note: This story has been updated to include current National Wildlife Refuge System staff numbers.
Helen Santoro is an editorial intern at High Country News.
click for website
The Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program is intended to revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation and provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of life and public safety, and protecting the environment and natural resources. The intended benefits include, but are not limited to, addressing issues such as:
Trade and logistics
Broadband, water and sewer connectivity
Autonomous, connected, shared and electric vehicle technology
Other transportation modes, such as shared-use nonmotorized trails, freight and passenger rail, and public transit
Mobility as a service
Availability of a trained workforce skilled in traditional and emerging technologies
Protection or enhancement of wildlife corridors or environmentally sensitive areas
Protection or enhancement of primary springs protection zones and farmland preservation areas
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is assigned with assembling task forces to study
three specific corridors:
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