What We Do
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which ais established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.
Management and Conservation
Prescribed fire is an important tool used for managing wildlife habitat. The refuge staff and partners conduct prescribed burns to enhance a variety of habitats and to control invasive and exotic plants. The refuge has a variety of vegetation types which are either dependent upon fire, susceptible to fire, or spread fire.
In Florida, fire is an important part of the natural ecology of many vegetation communities, such as pinelands and wet prairies. Fire is needed to maintain these communities and prevent the encroachment of invasive shrubs such as wax myrtle and willows. Fire also reduces the hazardous buildup of debris and dead vegetation which can fuel wildfires. Refuge staff utilizes fire to maintain healthy native vegetation communities on the refuge.
Prescribed fire is the burning of vegetation based on a prescription that takes into consideration fuel type, fuel moisture, relative humidity, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and other atmospheric conditions to ensure a safe and successful burn. The objectives of the A.R.M. Loxahatchee Fire Management Program are:
- 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
- To provide protection to both natural and constructed Refuge resources from catastrophic wildfires through fuel reduction
- To maintain biological diversity in fire-maintained plant communities by prescribed fire
- To maintain habitat for Service trust resources, including endangered and threatened plant and animal species through prescribed fire.
Invasive Plant Management
The refuge uses a variety of management techniques to control invasive and exotic plants including herbicides, mechanical controls with heavy equipment, prescribed fire, hand-pulling seedlings and vines, along with biological controls when available. Invasive exotic removal work is performed by refuge staff, independent contractors, volunteers, and partner groups.
Invasive Wildlife Management
Refuge staff and volunteers conduct Cuban tree frog surveys and Everglades Invasive Reptile, Amphibian, and Mammal Monitoring Program (EIRAMMP) surveys to monitor both native and non-native wildlife and their movements on the refuge.
Visitors can report sightings of non-native species by calling 1-888-IVE-GOT1 (1-888-483-4681) or at www.IveGot1.org.
The Everglades ecosystem depends on the natural seasonal water patterns of South Florida which rely on rain patterns. Historically, the Everglades’ dry season occurs in the winter months whereas the rainy season takes place in the summer. However, the rain does not always fall in the same, predictable way each and every year. The amount of rain that falls influences water levels in the wetlands of the Everglades. The wetlands act like a sponge, absorbing heavy rains to help prevent flooding, and slowly releasing water during dry times to combat drought.
Wading birds can catch more prey more easily when water is shallow. But as the water recedes in the dry season, prey populations can become depleted. As water levels rise in the wet season, prey can be harder to catch, but the deeper water gives prey populations a chance to rebound.
The quality or cleanliness of the water is also important. Water with chemicals enters the Everglades from canals from our cities and from farm fields that produce our food crops. These chemicals, called nutrients, affect how fast or slow some of the plants in the refuge will grow. Too many nutrients can cause non-native plants to grow and crowd out the native ones. Even if a plant is “native” or belongs in the system, excessive amounts of these nutrients can make certain plants grow much too fast which would consequently disrupt the balance of the ecosystem.
Tiny organisms called periphyton are the lowest level of the food chain here in the refuge. Periphyton is a spongy looking mat of algae and bacteria. Fish and invertebrates, like crayfish and apple snails, eat the periphyton. They, in turn, become food for all the reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals that live here. The kind of periphyton found in the sloughs and open water of our refuge is not found anywhere else in the entire Everglades ecosystem. The quantity and quality of the water in our refuge affect these periphyton and all the animals that depend on them.
Special Use Permits
Some commercial, recreational, or research activities are allowed on national wildlife refuges only with a special use permit issued by the local office, and are subject to specific conditions and fees. This permit requirement is meant to ensure that all activities at the federal site are compatible with the refuge’s congressionally mandated wildlife conservation goals. Special use permits may limit the scope, timing and location of the activity, as determined by the refuge where the activity would take place.
Prospective permit holders may fill out the corresponding permit application, sign it, and return it to the refuge for processing. Please submit by email to email@example.com. The permit is not valid until approved and signed by a refuge official. Allow for 30 working days to process the permit.
Commercial Activities Special Use Application (FWS Form 3-1383-C)
For commercial activities such as guiding hunters, anglers, or other outdoor users; for commercial filming (audio, video, and photographic products of a monetary value).
Research and Monitoring Special Use Application (FWS Form 3-1383-R)
For research and monitoring activities by students, universities, or other non-FWS organizations.
Through education and enforcement we protect our employees, volunteers, and visitors; safeguard the public’s investment in facilities and equipment; and protect the integrity of the habitat and the wildlife resources of the National trust resource which is the 150 million acre National Wildlife Refuge System.” - mission statement of National Wildlife Refuge System Law Enforcement program.
Laws and Regulations
Key legislation that guides the management of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge can be found on our Laws and Regulations page.