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12th Annual Everglades Day, Feb 12, 2011

Saturday February 12, 2011 8am-4pm

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge 10216 Lee Road , Boynton Beach

12th Annual Everglades Day Festival“Foreverglades ”

PRESCRIBED BURN – 12 Noon (WEATHER PERMITTING)

As we focus on SCIENCE this year, “Foreverglades”, the 12th Annual Everglades Day Festival at A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, is bringing together refuge and conservation agencies from all over Florida. The lead event is a PRESCRIBED BURN, complete with helicopter, starting around 12 noon.

Before the last century, wildfires were common in Florida. Plants and animals became adapted to these fires, and along with the natural flow of water through the “river of grass”, created a unique habitat in the Everglades. Early inhabitants also noted that game was more plentiful and healthier after a fire event.

But since then, large scale settlement, drainage and manipulation of water levels in the Everglades have upset this natural balance. As humans fragmented, developed, and drained the Everglades, occurrence of fires decreased, yet due to the accumulation of fuels over time, the now infrequent wildfires became more intense and destructive. In addition, invasion by exotic “landscaping” plants and trees has created even more intensively flammable fuel for wildfires than the native sawgrass and water-protected tree islands. So now wildfires become catastrophic, endangering the very Everglades ecology as well as the surrounding private homes and urban infrastructure.

Natural area resource managers (refuge managers) and wildlife biologists have adopted the use of frequent “prescribed fire” as a key tool to bring back the native vegetation and help wildlife that depends on fire-adapted Everglades’ habitat.

The objectives of the A.R.M. Loxahatchee Fire Management Program are 1) to provide protection to private property and human lives against uncontrolled wildfires that may result from un-managed fire-maintained vegetative communities through vegetative fuel reduction, 2) to provide protection to both natural and constructed refuge resources from catastrophic wildfires through fuel reduction, 3) to maintain and restore biological diversity in Everglades fire-maintained plant communities by prescribed fire and 4) to maintain and restore habitat for Service trust resources, including endangered and threatened plant and animal species through prescribed fire.

During the drought of 2004, a prescribed burn conducted in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge earlier that year, was credited with halting the spread of a 4,000-acre wildfire ignited by lightening. When the wild fire advanced to the area where the prescribed burn took place, it went out.

This year, the Everglades has a surplus of dead exotic vegetation resulting from treatment programs, and lowered water levels. Loxahatchee Refuge, the northernmost reach of the southern Florida Everglades, is thick with exotic trees such as melaleuca and Brazilian pepper, which threaten to dry up the marsh, and lygodium (Old World climbing fern), which threatens to smother it. So it is even more important than ever to use prescribed fire to remove this excess flammable vegetation and create openings for lush new native growth.

Come to the Everglades Day Festival on Saturday February 12, 2011 to see this Prescribed Burn. The burn will be managed by Jon Wallace, Loxahatchee’s Fire Management Officer.

EVERGLADES DAY FESTIVAL is family friendly, fun, and free except for food! Includes free off-site parking, shuttle bus to events.

The all-day fun filled lineup includes workshops and presentations, ecology exhibits, programs with live animals, birds and reptiles along with a variety of nature walks. There will be bus trips out to a critical marsh area of the Everglades in the morning and special tours will also be available to the study areas set up by the South Florida Water Management District to assess the best practices for saving Palm Beach County’s part of the Everglades. Guided canoeing, nature/bird walks, photography walks, trail hikes, and more. Don’t forget to check out the food vendors and live music. Come join us!

The event is for people of all ages and cultures, and there will be translators available for those speaking Spanish or Creole.

Mission Statement:
The Everglades Day Festival was created to promote an awareness and understanding of the importance of this fragile Everglades ecosystem to ALL South Floridians. This annual event uses science, art, music, and interactive programs to educate the public about the importance of this world-renowned water resource.