Friends of Refuges
June News Brief
Changes in Refuge Staff
Three Refuge staff members have left us recently or are about to. Ranger Pam Darty is retiring. She has been an important member of  the communities around the refuges, and was celebrated at community retirement gatherings in both the Town of Suwannee and Cedar Key. All wish her well with her new adventures.

Forestry Technician Jaclyn Solodovnick left us to move to Nevada where her husband has a new job. Now who will show us how to scope gopher tortoise burrows?

And large equipment and fire specialist George Pelt received a promotion and was hired away by the Loxahatchee Refuge.

Given tight budgets, the Refuge will probably only be allowed to fill only George's position. The other two will be lost.

Board Meeting
Thursday, July 16, 10:00 to noon, Refuge Headquarters
All are welcome for the next meeting. If you'd like to see the preliminary agenda, email
A Redesign of the Official Refuge Websites
You are familiar with the Friends of Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys website page, which provides information about Friends and the refuges.
We now have two additional, redesigned website pages to help us learn much more about the refuges. Deputy Refuge Manager Larry Woodward reports that all credit for these lovely and helpful new websites goes to Ranger Pam Darty. Click on the photos to visit the websites.

Improvements to the Dixie Mainline
The Refuge is removing select trees to widen the road shoulders in order to increase safe driving conditions and to improve maintenance operations on the Dixie Mainline. An article about this project will be in the upcoming issue of Hidden Coastlines magazine. For a preview, click here. (By permission of Pure Water Wilderness)

Recent Prescribed Burns & Lightening-Caused Fires
To improve wildlife habitat along the Lower Suwannee Nature Drive on the Levy County side, in the past few weeks Refuge fire specialists have conducted prescribed burns of 470 acres. They also controlled a 0.5 acre lightening-caused fire on the Refuge in the Cabin Road area and helped with control of a few just off the Refuge in both counties. Staff member Vic Doig reports that the Refuge area remains very dry, despite the regular thunderstorms. More prescribed burns are planned when the rains return and conditions are appropriate.

Rookery Abandonment

reddish egret photo by Ed DeHaan
As reported on the Friends website, most nesting birds abandoned the rookery at Seahorse Key this spring. The reason remains a mystery. Vic Doig reports that surveys over the past few weeks document that a new (albeit smaller) rookery at Snake Key is doing well. Many of the displaced nesters from the Seahorse Key abandonment re-nested there.  Also, staff confirmed nesting last week of Reddish Egrets at Snake Key.  They are an uncommon, more tropical species, and this new nesting record represents the most northern recorded nesting of the species in Florida (much like the Roseate Spoonbill a couple of years ago).

Changes in Hunting Regulations
The 2015-16 hunting season at the Lower Suwannee Refuge will be here before we know it. This year there are some changes to the hunting regulations. These changes are available in the Refuge hunting regulations brochure.  One significant change is the new requirement that hunters obtain a $15 Lower Suwannee NWR hunting permit. The permit will allow hunting through the entire 2015-16 season including Spring Turkey season. There is no limit on the number of permits available and they can be purchased at any time during the 2015-16 season, prior to hunting. You can purchase the permit online at, FWC offices, or County Tax Collectors' offices. 
Information collected from hunting permits will provide important, first-ever hunting data that will help the refuge achieve their management responsibilities of the 53,000 acres, 30 miles of Gulf shoreline and 20 miles of the historic Suwannee River that make up one of the most unique refuges in America.
Coastal Science High School Camp
Coleman Sheehy leads a snake walk and Vic Doig helps students scope for tortoises at camp
The Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys NWRs provided a partial scholarship for a local student to attend this week's Coastal Science High School camp at the University of Florida's Seahorse Key Marine Lab, which is located on Seahorse Key in a special relationship with the Cedar Keys Refuge. Refuge staff are working with the students, as well as Marine Lab staff (including Maria Sgambati, President-Elect of Friends), UF faculty, and local science teachers.

Click on the photos to link to stories in the Cedar Key News about the camp.

Visiting a Former Refuge Manager
Former Friends President Jay Bushnell and his wife Donna are visiting in Oregon. In Lakeview, they visited our former Refuge Manager John Kasbohm. Jay reports that John loves his new refuge almost as much as he loved Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys NWRs.
Information and Advocacy Links
Editor: Peg Hall
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Cedar Key, Florida 32625

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