November 10, 2016

SFWMD Governing Board Adopts Statement of Principles
Governing Board Promises to Keep Water Conservation Area-1 Property Open to Free Public Access and Control Invasive Plants if Continued USFWS Failures Force Termination of Loxahatchee Refuge License Agreement
West Palm Beach, FL  - The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today unanimously passed a groundbreaking Statement of Principles to protect the Loxahatchee Refuge for the public. This Statement details the Governing Board's intent for managing a critical piece of the Everglades if the continued failure of the federal government forces the SFWMD to terminate their lease on that land.
 
The Statement of Principles outlines how the Governing Board will manage the Water Conservation Area 1 property, where the Loxahatchee Refuge is located, for public access and ecosystem restoration if it is forced to terminate the contract that gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) the right to use that property. The District has owned the land for decades, but the USFWS has leased it since the early 1950s and used it as part of the Arthur Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

The Statement of Principles assures the public the Governing Board will keep the property open, free of charge, to public access and recreational enjoyment. The Governing Board also committed to encouraging scientific research on the property. The Statement of Principles also includes a commitment to do what the USFWS has failed to do- control the spread of destructive the Lygodium microphyllum plant.  To read the SFWMD Governing Board's approved Statement of Principles click here or the image.
 
The Statement of Principles and contract only apply to the District-owned land. The USFWS would continue to own approximately 1,200 acres the federal government east of the L-40 Levee will and continue to control recreational features on that property such as the visitors center and the boardwalk. To view the map click here or the image.  
 
The USFWS has been failing to fulfill promises it made in the 2002 license agreement allowing it to use Water Conservation Area 1 for the Refuge. The USFWS promised to secure adequate funding to control invasive plants and have complete control of Old World climbing fern in the Refuge by 2017. Not only is the USFWS nowhere close to having complete control of Old World climbing fern in the Refuge, but over the past 20 years under USFWS management the invasive fern's spread has increased by 600 percent. T he USFWS has also repeatedly refused to ask Congress for the money needed to control Old World climbing fern. Old World climbing fern causes tree canopies to collapse, severely degrading the ecosystem of Water Conservation Area 1 and threatening to spread into and destroy the ecosystem of other parts of the Everglades.
 
The SFWMD Governing Board on Aug. 11, 2016 issued a Notice of Default to the USFWS for failure to live up to the commitments it made in the License Agreement. The Governing Board does not want to terminate the agreement but is prepared to do so to protect this critical piece of the Everglades ecosystem if the USFWS will not honor its commitments.
 
To learn more about the contract, the USFWS failure to control Old World climbing fern as it has promised to do and the impact of this invasive plant on the Everglades please visit: www.sfwmd.gov/loxrefuge.
Media Contact: 
Randy Smith  |   rrsmith@sfwmd.gov    |  Office: 561-682-2800  |  Cell: 561-389-3386
The South Florida Water Management District is a regional governmental agency that manages the water resources in the southern part of the state. It is the oldest and largest of the state's five water management districts. Our mission is to protect South Florida's water resources by balancing and improving flood control, water supply, water quality and natural systems.


STAY CONNECTED

Follow us on Twitter