Thursday, June 18, 2009

Birding With Hendry-Glades Audubon

Hendry-Glades Audubon Offers Free Birding Tours

CLEWISTON, FL -- An Everglades restoration project just south of Lake Okeechobee continues to live up to its reputation as a national bird-watching location.

June marks the beginning of another season of partnership between the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Hendry-Glades Audubon, whose experts lead public birding tours at the District-managed Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA-5) in Hendry County. Most tours are guided by Audubon's Margaret England, who recently received the District's first Ambassador Award to recognize her community service and commitment to assist the District and provide increased access to public lands.

Birding, a national pastime, is big business, with 48 million people observing birds both around the home and through vacation travel. A 2001 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that nationwide birding generated $32 billion in retail sales and created 863,406 jobs.

Non-consumptive bird use (non-hunting activities) supported more than 19,000 jobs in Florida in 2006, and wildlife viewing activities generated more than $3 billion statewide that year, according to a state report. Second in the nation only to California, birding generates an estimated $477 million in retail sales in Florida every year.

During the past 15 years, Stormwater Treatment Areas have proven to be the water-cleaning workhorses of Everglades restoration, utilizing plants to remove phosphorus from water flowing into the Everglades. Since 1994, six STAs ­ with a combined area of more than 52,000 acres ­ have retained more than 1,000 metric tons of total phosphorus that would have otherwise entered the Everglades. Overall, Florida has invested more than $1.8 billion to improve Everglades water quality.

At each Stormwater Treatment Area, water levels are managed at an optimal depth for water quality improvements, which also creates an attractive habitat for wading birds. The District has taken steps to ensure the public has access at these sites for spectacular wildlife viewing as well as duck hunting, enhanced at STA-5 by construction of a waterfowl watching/hunting platform for disabled veterans and residents alike.

The District is committed to increasing recreational access to District lands, while continuing to manage them effectively to meet its environmental restoration, water supply, water quality and flood control missions. For more information on recreational opportunities, please visit For more information on Florida bird watching, visit the Great Florida Birding Trail.

To sign up for the STA-5 Birding Tour: Send an e-mail to Margaret England, at with your name, contact information, including an emergency cell number for the tour day, the date you want to go and the number in your party. You may also leave a message at (863) 674-0695 or (863) 517-0202.

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