- Led by Vic Doig and the Lower Suwanee Fire Crew, the Refuge hosted the Annual Fireline Safety Refresher 2-day course. It was attended by about 15 staff members from St. Marks, State of Florida agencies, Crystal River, and our refuge. It included live fire training, training drills, and a chainsaw refresher course.
- The Refuge's Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer has been conducting special night details with our State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission partners resulting in 4 arrests, 2 of which involved illegal oyster harvesting with dredges in closed areas that are oyster restoration sites.
- Staff member Jason Coates and the Dixie County Work Campers are rebuilding the storm-destroyed Shired Island boardwalk and conducting marsh cleanups in the Salt Creek area. Jason has also cleared the Salt Creek Loop trail and the Natural Pine Forest trail. Both of these beautiful trails are now easy to walk.
- Anthony DiMaggio and Josh Havird, both Lower Suwanee Fire Staff, are leaving the refuge in mid February for new positions. This leaves the Fire Program with one staff member, a trainee, and 2 collateral duty fire fighters.
- Refuge Forester, Daniel Barrand, continues assisting St. Marks Refuge on forestry operations.
- The Refuge is providing office and yard storage space to Mackenzie Russell, UF IFAS Vet School's Marine Stranding Coordinator for Taylor, Dixie, and Levy Counties.
On Thursday, January 19, the Friends are planning another bioblitz, again focusing on the Tram Ridge and River trails in the refuge headquarters area. We will meet at 12:30 in the Environmental Education building (modular building on the right side of the driveway near the log cabin) and plan to be in the field by 12:45. We will be finished by 3:00.
Those who are participating and also attending the Friends Board of Directors meeting will bring along picnic lunches to have after the meeting ends. All are welcome, whether attending the board meeting or not.
We will be attempting to record all the species we observe, but will have a special focus on insect life. Entomologist and future Board member Dan Kline will be bringing along and demonstrating some specialized sampling equipment and helping us to identify what we find. If you are capable of macro photography, be sure to bring your gear along.
More than 20 members of Friends of Refuges and others walked the beautiful Lukens Tract in Cedar Key today in 60 degree sunshine. Friends member Donna Thalacker guided the walk, pointing out plants, birds, and natural features of interest. It was a great way to spend a day in the holiday week.
On Thursday afternoon December 15, Friends Science Team will be conducting Round 2 in our development of a series of regular bioblitzes in the headquarters area of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. We will focus initially on the new Tram Ridge Trail and the River Trail, two areas in the Vista complex that we expect eventually to be part of a refuge visitor complex. Our goal is to get to better know the area biologically in order to help managers and people who will be developing visitor programs.
Those of us attending the 10 AM to 12 Noon Board of Directors meeting (and all Friends members are welcome) will be having a picnic lunch after the meeting and assembling at 12:30 PM to form into teams and go out on the trail. Those who will not be attending the board meeting can join us at the Environmental Education building (the modular structure to the right of the driveway, across from the log cabin). We'll hope to be in the field by 1 PM, and teams will reconvene by 3 PM to compare notes, help each other with identifications, and critique our methods. Bring binoculars, cameras, and any other field gear you think may be helpful.The weather should be great, and we expect fun and fellowship to flourish in the great outdoors.
You may want to check out our progress from last time by checking out the Vista subproject on the iNaturalist database. Directions for getting online are here.
Please invite others you think might be interested.
The Board of Directors of Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges will be looking for up to 3 new directors this fall for a two-year term to begin with the Annual Meeting on March 4, 2017. All Friends members are eligible to serve on the Friends all-volunteer Board.
Board members actively and creatively help to support the Refuges through the design and implementation of programs and communications that provide advocacy and outreach for the Refuges' mission and goals.
During this round of Board recruitment, Friends especially need individuals with experience and/or interest in the following areas:
The Board of Directors meets monthly, except in August and sometimes December.
Board members support the goals of the organization with their time and talent. This is a working board in which members serve as chairs and/or members of committees of the board, involving often daily work.
If you can envision yourself playing a role in the future of Friends of Refuges and would be willing to serve on the Board, please contact Maria Sgambati, the current president, at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2011, the sisters who own the Vista property, which is adjacent to the Refuge headquarters, decided that they would leave the property to the Refuge as a legacy. It is a historic property and was part of the timbering industry that held the area lands before the Refuge was established in the late 1970s.
On Thursday, November 17, the Friends Board will meet at Refuge headquarters from 10:00 to noon. All are welcome to attend. After the meeting we will all walk over to see the Vista property. Bring a picnic lunch and join the visit.
Lars Andersen, writer and paddling guide, wrote this piece that I think expresses the way many of us feel about our area.
Unlike other coastal regions, where civilization crowds shoulder-to-shoulder along the shore, like lemmings amassing for their the mythical plunge into the sea, nature still rules along Florida's Big Bend area - a.k.a. the central Gulf coast. It’s a low, wet country where the "shore line" defies definition, ever-changing, shrinking and expanding, with the ebb and flow of tides. Driving west toward Cedar Key, you hardly notice the slow drop in elevation - only about a foot per mile as you approach the coast. Leaving the pine flat-woods and sandy, scrub ridges, you notice the roadside ditch has become wetter and is filled with a beautiful assortment of wetland plants. You'll also notice that the pine forest has given way to hardwood swamp, loaded with bays and red maples. Nearing the Gulf, a gust of warm air, heavily perfumed with sea-salt, tells you you're getting close. Another bend in the road and you're treated to one of the rarest of Florida offerings - a wide-open vista. The forest ends unnoticed as your gaze is drawn away to vast expanses of salt marsh, scattered islands and open water stretching to the horizon. The hundreds of little islands that line this watery coast, range in size from barren, half acre sand-spits to bonafide, mile-wide islands. For the curious explorer who's not in a hurry, the complex, species-rich communities that crowd these islands never get boring. And, if you lose track of time and suddenly find that you've run out of daylight (I'm speaking from experience here), that's not so bad either. As dusk settles and the the only sound you hear is the breeze, you look out to see the silhouettes of palms, wind-gnarled oaks, pines and mangroves cast against a smoldering sun. It's the stuff of dreams - a place where all the world is right. In 1867, naturalist John Muir described Cedar Key as being "surrounded by scores of other keys, many of them looking like a clump of palms, arranged like a tasteful bouquet, and placed in the sea to be kept fresh. Others have quite a sprinkling of oaks and junipers, beautifully united with vines. Still others consist of shells, with a few grasses and mangroves circled with a rim of rushes."
At least once a year, the board of directors of Friends meets in the Town of Suwannee instead of at Refuge headquarters near Fowlers Bluff. This year, instead of driving the refuge staff members and the board members from Levy and Alachua Counties came down the river by boat. It was a perfect morning to enjoy the River, and wonderful to save 50 miles of driving. Perhaps the Dixie county board members need to start coming to board meetings on the water.
It was also a great day to all participate in the Suwannee River Cleanup and have an excellent lunch with colleagues from Suwannee,.
Dan Frisk joined in the day and got to visit Dixie County and Suwannee for the first time. He is the newly appointed US Fish and Wildlife Service Manager for the Refuge Complex that includes Lower Suwannee, Cedar Keys, St Mark's and St. Vincent Refuges. The Florida Big Bend region is on everyone's agenda because of the value it has in preserving the economy and quality of life we all cherish. We are glad to have people new to the area spend time in our little paradise and be captured by its charms.
Enjoying perfect cleanup weather on October 20, twenty-three volunteers collected 1,704 lbs of trash from the canals and creeks around the town of Suwannee- four times more than last year! The picture below is the Leverette's haul and they only cleaned a small section near their house.
After a chicken & rice lunch served Dixie county style off the back of a pick-up truck, Daniel Barrand, Refuge Forester, gave a excellent presentation on the history of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge that left me feeling proud I helped clean one of the largest pristine coastal wetlands in the country. I am lucky to live here and enjoy its unspoiled beauty.
Thanks to all who came out and got muddy!
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The official government websites of the Refuges
"Escape to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge" video by Visit Florida