The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail has been added to the National Trail System. The Department of Interior added 30 new trails, almost 1300 miles, to this network of outdoor recreation opportunities.
The announcement from the Department of Interior describes the Suwannee Trail this way: "The majestic 235-mile Suwanee River begins just below the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Georgia. The meandering waterway then coils through the heart of north central Florida, ending in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast. Steeped in rich culture and history, this beloved river remains a wild natural wonder with endless delights for adventurous explorers."
Because we believe that building toll roads through our rural region would significantly damage the habitat and wildlife that our Refuges were established to conserve, Friends joined the coalition No Roads to Ruin.
Friends recently signed-on to a letter from the coalition outlining the reason all members of the coalition oppose the roads. We also sent our own letter of opposition.
Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges is, as you know, an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation registered in Florida.
In part because of a Report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Interior, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service now requires that in order to become part of the official National Wildlife Refuge System friends program, each independent Friends organization must sign a Partnership Agreement by the end of this year. We would remain a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, however we would agree to additional monitoring and oversight by the Government.
The Friends board is weighing the implications of signing the Partnership Agreement or of remaining unaffiliated with any Government agency.
The headquarters building and Welcome Desk remain closed because of Covid 19 guidelines.
Nevertheless, the refuge staff continue their work unabated. Trails and roads are being maintained, despite the vigorous efforts of feral swine to make a mess of them. Shell Mound Trail has receive enhancements.
Vic Doig, George Pelt, and Sterling Valentine have all been fighting fires out west.
Also, in response to a proposal submitted in the spring, the Refuges have received additional funding to improve fishing access and safety. These funds are in addition to the grant funds received earlier to restore hydrologic flow across the Lower Suwannee Refuge.