The Refuge is engaged in a multi-year effort to restore natural hydrology across the Lower Suwannee Refuge into the Gulf. Several years ago, monies became available for high impact projects in the region. The Refuge joined with others in a successful hydrology restoration proposal. More details about it are available in Restoration of the Refuge's Natural Hydrology.
The next step is to obtain detailed engineering studies of the specific areas where changes will be made. Working with the Suwannee River Water Management District (SWWMD), the Refuge decided to focus first on the public driving roads, the Dixie Mainline, its spurs, and the Nature Drive and its spurs. The secondary roads will be addressed later, but remedying the public driving roads is a first priority and may use all the funding available.
The SRWMD is managing the engagement of an appropriate consulting firm and will soon release a Request for Quotations with a self-guided map for the prospective firms that may want to submit a bid for the Engineering and Design Study to lay out what the restoration options are.
As was mentioned in the earlier article, the project is important to return the natural hydrology and movement of water through the Refuge to the Gulf of Mexico. It will improve the health of the estuary by restoring freshwater to it. Moreover, it will help sustain the economic viability of recreational and commercial fishing, ecologically important oyster reefs, federally-protected species, and the significant shellfish aquaculture industry in the region.
Each summer, the Lower Suwannee NWR participates in the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program. It is a federal government, summer youth employment program hiring teens from 15 through 18 years old, who are permanent US residents with a work permit and Social Security number. The work is at participating national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries. It is intended to develop an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. YCC programs are 8 to 10 weeks and members are paid the minimum wage for a 40-hour work week.
This year, the Refuge is hosting two summer YCC Students: Shelby Holland from Chiefland, who was the YCC Youth Leader last year, and Gabriel Lauer from Cedar Key. They are working as a team on various Refuge maintenance projects including, but not limited to mowing, rehabbing the yellow gates, garbage and cleaning details, posting signs, and assisting Crystal River NWR YCCers.
Teens who would be interested in applying for a YCC job for a future summer should text or call Refuge Manager Andrew Gude at 703.622.3896.
Shell Mound, on the Levy County side of the Lower Suwannee NWR, attracts thousands of visitors each year. Some come to fish from the pier. Others put in their kayaks and small boats at the tide-dependent launch area. Some walk the two-mile Dennis Creek Trail through marshes and hammocks.
For many, the highlight of the visit is the walk on the self-guided, half-mile Shell Mound archaeological trail.
Despite its unassuming name, Shell Mound (8LV42), is a large shell-bearing archaeological site that was once the location of special gatherings for Native American groups across the broader region.
The site rose to prominence as a ritual center at about A.D. 400 and continued through A.D. 650. Archaeologists refer to places such as this as “civic-ceremonial centers,” locations of both residence and ritual activity. Like other civic-ceremonial centers in the region, Shell Mound drew its significance from a nearby cemetery, the hallowed ground of ancestors from far and wide.
The site features mounds of marine shell (predominately oyster) measuring 20 feet high surrounding a large central plaza. Excavations by archaeologists from the University of Florida have discovered the remains of large feasts that took place in the summer – likely celebrating the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.
Today, Shell Mound is under the stewardship of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the help of community groups such as the Friends of the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuges. Come tour this incredible site and learn more about Shell Mound and its inhabitants by taking the self-guided walking tour.
Click here for the Guide Book giving additional information beyond what is on the brief interpretive panels.
Click the links below to read the Interpretive Panels you will see along the half-mile trail.
The Refuge is seeking Public Comment on two proposed new activities on the refuge. For each, there is a press release that explains the activity and draft of the compatible use determination related to the activity. Comments from the public need to be in writing and can be sent by mail or email, as described in the press releases. The deadline for comments is 24 July 2020.
Activity 1) Hound Field Trials - under a Special Use Permit allow sanctioned dog clubs to conduct (non-lethal) field trial at night for racoons. We already allow a raccoon hunt; field trials are just an activity where dogs chase the coon, tree the coon, participants don't shoot the coon, but score points based on judging the dog's performance.
Activity 2) Thrips Release - under a Special Use Permit partner with the State of Florida Division of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs to release a non-native insect as a biological control onto stands of Brazilian pepper trees on the Refuge. USDA APHIS has conducted a rigorous environmental compliance review in which the USFWS was a collaborating agency. This biocontrol has been coordinated with the US Forest Service, National Park Service, as well as State of Florida Forest Service and Park Service and cleared at the national level.
Each month, Friends features one butterfly that is found on the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy the June butterfly. For previous features, click here.
Friends board member Debbie Jordan has been out and about checking on the abundant bird life. She sends this report, including an update on Suwannee the Swallow-tailed Kite.
I hope you’ve been able to be outdoors enjoying the spring bird life -- there are so many babies this year! From cardinals to chickadees to woodpeckers, it’s been quite a noisy show with parents and begging youngsters at the feeders each day. Our skies have been graced with our favorite soaring birds, swallow-tailed kites, who are now visiting us during their breeding season. Through National Audubon magazine or our Friends News Brief, you might have heard about the Refuge’s “famous” kite named Suwannee, who was captured and outfitted with a GPS-GSM transmitter last summer. In August/September, young Suwannee made the incredible 5,000-mile journey from the Refuge to Mato Grosso, Brazil where he over-wintered. During his journey and while in Brazil, each time he came within range of a cell phone tower, data was transmitted about Suwannee’s location. In March, we were thrilled and amazed to learn that, after taking a slightly different route, he made the two-month journey all the way back to Florida!
Checks to support Suwannee's tracking should be made to Friends of Refuges, and
Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges
P.O. Box 532
Cedar Key, FL 32625
Please note you are supporting Swallow-tailed Kite research.
T-shirt Anyone? We are thinking of offering online purchase of kite t-shirts to support this effort. Please let me know if you’d like to order a shirt. Price will be $25 including mailing costs. We have Men's (S-2XL) and Women's sizes (S-XL) email@example.com
All board initiatives were discussed with particular attention to starting butterfly surveys, considering linking some trails to create a walk that highlights several contrasting eco-zones of the refuge, and planning the next phase of the Vista project.
The June meeting was scheduled to again be virtual. Friends is adjusting and adapting to the world as it is today. The mission hasn't changed, just the meeting mode.
Dr. Ken Sassaman, the Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor of Florida Archaeology at the University of Florida, is working with the Cedar Keys NWR on a project at Atsena Otie. In the current issue of Florida Historical Society Archaeological Institute's magazine, he describes the project's ultimate goal to create a virtual reality platform for exploring the experience and expectation of climate events. In particular, he and a team he has assembled will investigate the 1896 storm that destroyed most of the buildings on the island. The story says the project will use archival, geospatial, archaeological, and oral historical data in pursuit of insights that might help current community leaders plan for future climate events. Read the full story here.
On Monday, May 11, the five new Board members met on ZOOM with several current members for a short orientation. The discussion included:
The Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Due to coronavirus concerns, the headquarters building is closed to visitors. However, staff are working as usual and the Refuge is open for appropriate recreational uses including boating, hiking, fishing, biking, and birding.
The Refuge Manager Andrew Gude can be reached by text or phone at 703.622.3896.
Hunting Information from the Refuge Manager
The print version of the 2020-2021 Hunt Regulations Brochure is now available. For a digital version,
click on the photo below. A current LSNWR Hunt Brochure must be signed and in possession by all adult hunters. The brochure includes websites to obtain hunting permits and required harvest reports.
For a Summary of the 2020-2021
Hunt Season Schedule,
We have a monthly email News Brief
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