Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Marks Everglades Day Feb. 8

Everglades Day is a great time to see wildlife, such as this white-tailed deer.

The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will host its 21st annual Everglades Day Festival on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s “River of Grass,” the Florida Everglades, is not just somewhere south of Miami. The northernmost 226 square miles of the Everglades ecosystem are right here in Palm Beach County at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, with a Visitor Center entrance just off route State Road 7 in suburban Boynton Beach.

This refuge is the Everglades habitat for more than 370 wildlife species, including endangered and threatened birds and American alligators. It’s a people-friendly place for wildlife observation and photography with miles and miles of maintained walking, biking and boating trails, and an accessible Cypress swamp boardwalk. Fishing and hunting are permitted in designated areas, in accordance with regulations.

This year’s Everglades Day theme is “Habitats of the Everglades,” which promotes awareness, appreciation and an understanding of the Everglades.

Start with free parking and a shuttle to and from the event at West Delray Regional Park (10875 W. Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach). This day-long festival features wildlife presentations, guided refuge walks and tours, children’s activities, free canoeing, more than 30 exhibitors, food trucks, live music by the Roadside Review, educational programs and guest speakers.

This year’s educational topics include: learning about gardening naturally, alligators and crocodiles, climate change and the Everglades, Seminole traditions, Everglades restoration, and live animal presentations of raptors, native snakes and non-native reptiles.

Among the national, professional speakers are:

Dr. Marty Main, best known for creating and developing the award-winning Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP). This University of Florida/IFAS adult education extension program, taught throughout the state, issues about 1,000 completion certificates annually, replicated by other states. FMNP teaches people about Florida’s ecosystems, the plants and animals they support, the conservation challenges they face, and the importance of understanding, respecting and protecting Florida’s natural resources for future generations.

Main’s published research has been broadly focused, including studies of numerous animals, including the Florida panthers. He is a professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida and a past recipient of the Conservation Educator of the Year Award by the Florida Wildlife Federation, among other honors. This is a great opportunity to hear one of the nation’s preeminent innovators and leaders in ecology and conservation.

Richard Kern is a second-generation natural history filmmaker and lifelong South Florida resident, who grew up on the edge of the Everglades. He presents an inspired short film series with discussion, calling attention to “The Embattled Everglades: Habits in Peril.”

Kern’s films highlight efforts to save isolated pockets of critically endangered Everglades orchids, efforts to restore Everglades water-flow into a system dying of thirst and examination of the dwindling of bonefish in Florida Bay.

Executive director of Encounters in Excellence, Kern presents an action-packed “in-house field trip” of his narrated natural history films to more than 30,000 public school children yearly. This promises to be an inspirational opportunity to see, hear and learn about the incredible biodiversity and challenges facing the Everglades.

Major sponsors of Everglades Day are the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Friends of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Audubon Everglades.

Learn more at www.fws.gov/refuge/arm_loxahatchee.