Monday, November 26, 2018

The latest on plague of Lygodium in Palm Beach County’s Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge.

There is very good news to report.

The Loxahatchee Sierra Club has been monitoring this particular plague in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge west of Boynton Beach for many years now. Now that the idea of constructing another reservoir in Palm Beach County is mostly just a distraction now the focus has returned to much more pressing problems, e.g., eliminating plagues of invasive plants, a problem that had spiraled out of control.

Below is news from SFWMD headlined, “Governing Board Approves Budget Amendment to Use Funding to Save Loxahatchee Refuge from Lygodium”. First some background.

Make no mistake: The news below from SFWMD is very big news not just for Palm Beach County but for all of South Florida as well.

Invasive Lygodium in the treasured Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (also known as Water Conservation Area 1) has been a vexing plague and major policy issue for the Loxahatchee Sierra Club (LSC) for many years, maybe even decades. LSC encourages everyone to:

Visit the refuge! The more visitors the refuge receives, the stronger the case for maintaining its status as a National Wildlife Refuge.

Where is this refuge in Palm Beach County?

This wildlife refuge is “right in the backyard of our busy urban area. Located off US-441 west of Boynton Beach, the 142,392-acre refuge has been in existence for 66 years providing habitat for native flora and fauna as well as educational and wildlife-viewing activities for residents, tourists, and our youth.” Click on this link for directions and contact information.

The news below from SFWMD must be one of great relief for LSC now that efforts to unplague the refuge have begun. Before long there should be an announcement from LSC acknowledging all the hard work by SFWMD to finally save the Loxahatchee Refuge from almost certain devastation by Lygodium vines plaguing the refuge.

  • The media contact at LSC is Mr. Drew Martin, the Conservation Chair. Send an email to:
  • The media contact at SFWMD is Mr. Randall Smith. He can be reached at the office (561-682-2800), by cell (561-389-3386) or by email as well:
  • For the SFWMD official newsroom and “ways you can get updated information about the District” click on this link.

Without further ado, the press release
from SFWMD follows:

West Palm Beach, FL — The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today approved a budget amendment that will clear the way for up to $2 million per year in federal funding to help fight the spread of invasive Lygodium [plague], also known as the Old World Climbing Fern, in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in western Palm Beach County.

The funding will come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages the refuge. USFWS leases the refuge land from the state of Florida under an agreement that includes numerous performance measures, including controlling the spread of invasive plants.

“We must control the spread of invasive plants such as Lygodium to protect the investment of billions of Florida taxpayer dollars to restore the Everglades. SFWMD has shown it is committed to fight this invasive fern and this money offers assistance with the federal government’s obligation,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member Jim Moran, who spearheaded efforts to forge an agreement with USFWS to ensure more federal funding to fight Lygodium in the refuge.

Lygodium has overrun countless tree islands and its spread has increased by about 600 percent in the refuge over the past two decades. The invasive fern can cause the collapse of tree islands, a crucial part of the habitat in the ridge and slough ecosystem of the Everglades. It also increases the risk of wildfires spreading.

The budget amendment passed today accepts $1.25 million to $2 million in funding from USFWS into SFWMD's land management budget this budget year. SFWMD has already spent about $2 million in state funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission this budget year but those funds have now been exhausted. The USFWS funds will allow the District’s contractors to continue eradicating Lygodium from tree islands in the refuge.

Under the agreement, USFWS must also give SFWMD up to $2 million in funding each year for the next several years to keep fighting the spread of Lygodium in the refuge. USFWS is also required to develop a new public use plan that potentially expands recreational uses in the refuge such as hunting. USFWS has already held several public meetings and a draft of that new plan is expected to be released soon.

*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.”