The weather was perfect and the crowd was large for the 2020 Annual Meeting. From the Friends' perspective, President John McPherson provided an overview of the year's actions and a preview of what is planned for the coming year. Refuge Manager Andrew Gude did the same from the refuge perspective.
The membership elected new officers and directors. Their photos and short bios are available on the About Us - The Board tab. We also ratified changes to the Bylaws to bring them up to date. They are available on the Records Archives - Bylaws tab.
The excellent featured presentation was by Dr. Ken Meyer of the Avian Research and Conservation Institute in Gainesville, FL. He talked about their tracking studies and conservation issues of Swallow-tailed Kites. ARCI has been studying Swallow-tailed Kites since 1988, discovering their migration routes and winter range and all aspects of needs and threats along the way.
The Friends sponsored the tagging of a Kite, named Suwannee, who spends part of his year on the Refuge. At the meeting, T-shirts were available to purchase to support our Suwannee-tracking project, and donations were also accepted, reaching more than $600 during the meeting. The shirts are available at the town of Suwannee Art Festival on March 14 and at the Welcome Desk in the headquarters at the refuge. This article includes an interactive map that tracks Suwannee on his migration. Scroll down in the article to find the map. Use the dot in the caption to "fly" him from the Refuge to Brazil and as far back as he is so far.
After lunch, catered by Ken and Rose McCain, everyone walked to Vista to see the property that will eventually be added to the Refuge. It is gorgeous Suwannee riverfront acreage with several buildings. With grant support, Friends is currently having an architectural firm evaluate the historical, cultural, and structural characteristics of the property for planning purposes.
Journalist Blaine Vitallo attended the meeting, reporting for Hardison Ink. Read his story and see his photos - Annual Meeting Focuses on National Wildlife Refuges.
Refuge Manager Andrew Gude spent the week of February 9 to 14 at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia learning more about Land Conservation Easements .
Discussion topics included how to:
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law in May 2019. He says it “is intended to re-vitalize 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.”
If this highway project proceeds, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is not large enough or strong enough to protect the wildlife, or us, against the direct and indirect degradation that M-CORES would bring to the environment and natural resources that the Governor says he wants to enhance.
During the 2018 nesting season, the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (the featured program for Friends Annual Meeting in two weeks) worked with a dedicated BBC film crew on a new addition to their Florida Wildlife series (which airs in the U. S. on PBS Nature), this time featuring Swallow-tailed Kites. They were particularly interested in describing this species’ dramatic pre-migration communal roosting behavior, the national population monitoring program ARCI has built around this incredible phenomenon, and the importance of protecting the kites at these critical sites, including the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.
Dr. Gina Kent and Dr. Ken Meyer have not seen the resulting piece, so we can all see it revealed together, tonight. Gina says it will most likely be 10 minutes of kites or less. There's a chance there are behind the scenes interviews at the end, so keep watching :)
Here is a trailer with a brief description of the program: