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Environment

National Wildlife Refuge? National Park? National Preserve? …What’s The Difference?

In South Florida, they all have alligators. But there are some key differences between national wildlife refuges, national parks and national preserves. Here’s a snapshot:

LISTEN: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge — what’s out there?

South Florida's national wildlife refuges
Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
South Florida's national wildlife refuges

National wildlife refugesare public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants. They come in all sizes, from tiny to enormous. There are 562 national wildlife refuges in the U.S., an average of more than 10 per state. Popular visitor activities are hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, interpretation and environmental education. National wildlife refuges are operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most national wildlife refuges do not permit camping.  In South Florida:Arthur R. Marshall-Loxahatchee NWR, Crocodile Lake NWR, National Key Deer NWR, Great White Heron NWR, Key West NWR.

South Florida's national parks and preserves.
South Florida's national parks and preserves.

National parksstrive to keep unique natural landscapes unimpaired for future generations while offering recreation opportunities. They are developed to serve a large number of visitors. Facilities for cars and walking are given priority, with off-road vehicles generally prohibited. National parks are operated by the National Park Service.  In South Florida: Biscayne NP, Everglades NP, Dry Tortugas NP

National preservesare also operated by the National Park Service. Activities like hunting, fishing or oil and gas extraction may be permitted at national preserves if they don’t jeopardize the park’s natural resources.  In South Florida: Big Cypress NP

Arthur R. Marshall-Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge’s 19th annual Everglades Day Festival takes place Saturday, Feb. 10.

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A tillandsia air plant blooms at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
A tillandsia air plant blooms at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.

A little blue heron hunts for a snack at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
A little blue heron hunts for a snack at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

An alligator rests at at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
An alligator rests at at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

A limpkin at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
A limpkin at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

A tree shows telltale signs of bobcat scrathing at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
A tree shows telltale signs of bobcat scrathing at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.

A wax myrtle twig exhibits lobate lac scale insect damage lobate lac scale at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
A wax myrtle twig exhibits lobate lac scale insect damage lobate lac scale at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Jan. 30, 2018.

Deputy Project Leader Steve Henry points out the boundaries of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Deputy Project Leader Steve Henry points out the boundaries of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 30, 2018.