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Sunrise at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR. Photo by Phil Kloer, USFWS.

Soul River meets Loxahatchee

In mid-June, five inner city youths from Portland, Oregon, visited the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to meet with staff members, learn about careers in natural resources, and understand the importance of the refuge and the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The three-day visit was sponsored by Soul River Inc., a non-profit organization that introduces military veteran mentors and inner city youth to numerous outdoor and cultural experiences to promote leadership and environmental awareness. Through role models like Chad Brown, the founder and president of Soul River Inc., the hope is that these five youth leaders will communicate the importance of our natural resources and inspire environmental change.

Five young adults holding on to a large python.
Python patrol training. Photo by David Vela, USFWS.

While at the refuge, the participants from Soul River Inc. participated in various hands-on learning activities with our partners. Youth leaders enjoyed airboat rides and swamp slogging led by refuge staff members, tours of the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment study with the South Florida Water Management District, water quality testing with the Everglades Program Team, and Python Patrol Training with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They also joined Hobe Sound Nature Center staff and volunteers to witness sea turtle nesting. Among the new wildlife the students experienced was the infamous and abundant lubber grasshopper.

Following the event, Loxahatchee received a letter from the five youths. Here is an excerpt:

“Your efforts and knowledge have enabled us and the rest of the Soul River to appreciate and protect the Everglades. What stood out to us, Soul River youths, was the eagerness and passion everyone displayed towards their role in the environment and the Everglades. Being introduced to different fields opened our eyes to the vast amount of employment opportunities related to conservation. We are thankful for your willingness to listen and give us feedback based on your experience in the field. Thank you for giving us the first hand learning experience that not all Floridians get to attain. Learning this information about a key part of an ecosystem can change perspectives of all people.”

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