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These things I take with me

As I See It

Monday, August 01, 2011

Media contact: Rodney Barreto

This will be my last "As I See It" column, and I wanted to take a moment and reflect on how far the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission team has come in the past 10 years. I have been honored to work with Commissioners and staff who are not only dedicated to the mission of the Commission but also passionate in managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. 

I am proud to note that Floridians have more hunting and fishing opportunities now than before. Thirty new areas with public hunting have been added in the past five years, totaling an additional 135,000 acres. 

We all understand the need to reach out to our youth, and a hunting initiative that I am particularly proud of is the new youth turkey hunting weekend, allowing hunting on 78 FWC-managed areas. The youth turkey hunts on these wildlife management areas will be two-day, Saturday-Sunday hunts on the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season on each particular WMA, beginning with the 2012 season.

It is so important to expose young people to outdoor recreational opportunities. The more our youth experience wildlife and nature, the more likely they are to grow up to appreciate these resources and to pass along outdoor traditions to future generations.

In addition to expanded hunting opportunities, we constantly strive to make sure Florida has plentiful fishing resources. Florida is the "Fishing Capital of the World." What angler doesn't look forward to the thrill of hearing a reel sing as line peels out. We are the world's destination for visitors who want to catch tarpon, bonefish and permit, and I am especially proud of our catch-and-release program for these "rock stars" of saltwater fishing. The Commission has worked hard to ensure Floridians and our visitors have the opportunity to catch a big one.

Another opportunity is the expansion of this year's bay scallop season. It kicked off on June 25 and runs through Sept. 25, starting a week early and running two weeks longer than usual. This is great family fun and gives our visitors and residents the chance to take advantage of this fun outdoor activity.

Recognizing that anglers and hunters are just a part of Florida's conservation community, I am proud of the vast resources available to wildlife viewers in our state made possible through our various partnerships. The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail represents only one aspect of wildlife viewing enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. The FWC worked with the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation to create this network of 500 birding sites and 2,000 miles of self-guided highway trails throughout Florida.

There are many things that I will take with me as I leave the Commission, including many memories, friendships and accomplishments that I share with my fellow Commissioners and FWC staff.

I'd like to thank my fellow Commissioners and FWC staff for their hard work and dedication in helping to make all these public opportunities possible, in addition to their years of support and friendship. I have been honored to work with a group of people who are passionate about wildlife issues and consider the work they do to be a calling, as have I.

Finally, I want to thank former governors Bush and Crist. I will always be honored and humbled by the confidence they showed me when they appointed me to the Commission as well as their continued support that made this journey possible.

FWC Facts:
While bears may defend a food resource, bears generally are not territorial, meaning they do not defend boundaries of a specific area from intrusion by other bears.

Learn More at AskFWC