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Volunteer with 4-H groupGetting involved at Lower Suwannee NWR will connect you to the natural world more than you could ever imagine. It could be through volunteerism or as a member of our Friends group. Here, a volunteer teaches a water quality lesson at the river's edge. The Lower Suwannee Refuge sponsors Suwannee River clean-ups annually; our Friends group and community volunteers hit the Suwannee in a variety of boats. It's so satisfying to see those tons of litter in a trash receptacle rather than in the river. Helping to plant native long-leaf pines allows you the opportunity to return decades later to show your grand children the tall conifers you planted.  Sow the seeds of conservation with us!

From its start in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has owed its very existence to concerned citizens eager to protect America's natural resources. 

More than 200 nonprofit Refuge Friends organizations support national wildlife refuges, whether they work with a single refuge, a refuge complex or an entire state.  Friends members are crucial to conserving and protecting our nation’s wildlife and teaching millions of Americans that their actions today determine the conservation legacy of tomorrow.  

More than 42,000 people volunteer their time and ideas each year to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Whether they work on the land, or at special events, or by writing letters of advocacy, they contribute to the conservation mission that reaches back more than a century.  Become a volunteer or Refuge Friend to contribute your strength on behalf of America’s natural resources at the Lower Suwannee or your local Refuge.

Pepper-Busting Beats Doing Nothing

During the winter holidays, our eyes are drawn to native plants that shimmer reds and greens of the season. Beauties like Florida holly with its waxy deep green leaves and bright red berries, yaupon holly with its small waxy leaves and small red berries, and the more delicate Christmas berry with red and green as well as a tiny lavender flower, are our friends. These native beauties are more decorative than the invasive brought in as an ornamental.

Those new to Florida mistake Brazilian pepper (Schinus), for a friendly plant because its colors are familiar. Birds don’t care; food is food, but these non-native plants are heavy drinkers of the water our native plants require. Schinus produces millions of seeds many times throughout the year making it tough to control its spreading. Birds unwittingly fertilize them in their guano after gorging on the berries. Schinus is the “most hated” non-native plant for Floridians because they can survive cutting, burning, and even some chemical treatment.   

Staff and Friends of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge along with the Cedar Key Garden Club’s Pepper Busters are going all-out to rid the area of the hardy, but hated invasive. Roger McDaniels, both a Refuge Friends Board member and President of the Cedar Key Garden Club, wrote the grant for invasives eradication. Later, the Refuge purchased safety gear, application equipment, chemicals, and tools for volunteers and staff. Refuge Fire Management Officer, Vic Doig created an invasive plants brochure to inform the visiting public and new residents. It can be seen posted in the Refuge bulletin board at the Cedar Key Marina.

McDaniels, has organized at least a dozen or more work groups to pepper-bust the Refuge’s newly acquired Luken’s Tract and areas of Cedar Key. No schinus shall go unnoticed, uncut, or untreated! If you’re interested in becoming a pepper-buster, call the Refuge at 352/493-0238.

Page Photo Credits — Volunteer with 4-H group / USFWS
Last Updated: May 20, 2015
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