This spring, an opportunity presented itself to assist with our local National Wildlife Refuge–Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge near Ft. Lauderdale. I thought, “WOW, I would LUV to be a part of it!!” This wildlife refuge is the last northernmost portion of the Everglades. We learned that the Loxahatchee Refuge is home to the American alligator and the critically endangered Everglade snail kite. In any given year, as many as 257 species of birds may use the Refuge’s diverse wetland habitats.
I grew up in Florida, and absolutely love my state (I was so excited, proud and had waited years for a Florida One plane!). The outdoor life, plants, and little creatures are something I grew up with and have always wanted to help preserve.
We contacted our local Refuge and set up a day and time to come out and get down to business. They were very excited about us coming to assist for the day. We arrived in the morning and they had several events planned for us. Several trees were donated to the Refuge, and we had the duty of planting each one. We grabbed our shovels and started digging —it wasn’t long before we worked up a sweat! The trees were pretty tall and had a big root base, so we had to dig a deep enough hole for the trees new home. Next, we were off to the butterfly trail that needed new mulch. Along with our Refuge friend, Dave, we grabbed bags of mulch off the truck, singing our way to the trail where we emptied the bags and spread it around to fill in the trail. As we worked on the trail, we saw many butterflies fluttering around on all the magnificent plants and beautiful flowers. It’s as if they were there to welcome us!!
After we finished the trail, Dave invited us in to check out their nature exhibit. They have an interactive wildlife show where you sit on a model of an airboat like you are traveling through the Everglades, viewing all the alligators, birds, and other wildlife. It was really cool!! We had time to meet some of the other volunteers, and Dave invited us back anytime. I can’t wait.
Southwest Airlines is the official airline of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. To support wildlife recovery efforts in the Gulf, Southwest is donating $1 from each EarlyBird Check-In™ purchase, up to $100,000, through Oct. 4.
For more information about the EarlyBird Check-In giving program, visit www.southwest.com/nwra . To learn more about the National Wildlife Refuge Association and how you can volunteer at a refuge in your state, visit www.refugeassociation.org.