News Releases

FWC requests public input at Critical Wildlife Area workshops

News Release

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Media contact: Carli Segelson, 772-215-9459; Gary Morse, 863-227-3830; Carol Lyn Parrish, 850-556-2269

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://bit.ly/1sKj7kk External Website

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding public workshops to share information about and solicit comments on the proposal to designate new Critical Wildlife Areas and modify five existing CWAs throughout the state. The proposed designations are part of a statewide initiative to conserve some of Florida’s most vulnerable wildlife.

CWAs are established by the FWC under a Florida Administrative Code rule to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as breeding, feeding or migration.

In southwest Florida, the FWC is considering designating six new CWAs in Lee County: three in Pine Island Sound and three in Estero Bay. The FWC is also considering modifications to the existing Rookery Island CWA in Collier County.

Here is a schedule for the southwest Florida area workshops:

  • Rookery Island –6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 8 at the Florida Gulf Coast University Kapnick Center, 4940 Bayshore Drive, Naples.  
  • Pine Island Sound –6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Education Center, 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.  
  • Estero Bay 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at the Fort Myers Regional Library, meeting room AB, 2450 First St., Fort Myers.  

 “This initiative to create more CWAs throughout the state is not just for bird watchers and wildlife aficionados,” said FWC Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski. “This is something for everyone, and we want everyone to have an opportunity to be a part of the process.”

The FWC will use the feedback received at these meetings to help develop the recommendations for each of the CWA designations and modifications. These recommendations will be presented at the FWC’s September meeting.

“Florida is renowned for its wealth of charismatic waterbirds, but they have fewer and fewer safe places to nest and rest,” said Julie Wraithmell, Deputy Executive Director for Audubon Florida. “FWC’s leadership on this effort will help ensure these places thrive for future generations of birds and people alike.”

There are hundreds of islands similar to the ones being considered for CWA designations. However, only a few have the right combination of factors that draw in birds to nest and roost there. Because the birds gather in such large concentrations in such small areas, CWAs are an extremely effective conservation tool.

Rookery Island CWA is part of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. It was established as a CWA in 1993 for the year-round protection of nesting and roosting wading birds. Over the years, bird activity shifted to two other nearby islands. Increased use of Rookery Bay has led to increased disturbance of birds on these islands. The re-establishment proposal calls for expanding to include other islands within Rookery Bay. This would allow for closure of other islands as bird activity shifts. However, at this time, only the island with the greatest amount of use would be closed with a 300-foot buffer.

Pine Island Sound consists of several nesting islands within the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the neighboring Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve. Three sets of islands have both high levels of wading bird nesting and human disturbance. Staff are considering a seasonal closure and variable buffer for Broken Islands and Useppa Oyster Bar. A year-round closure and 150-foot buffer is being proposed for Hemp Key.

Estero Bay consists of three sets of islands in the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, which have both high levels of wading bird nesting and human disturbance. Matanzas Pass Island and Coconut Point East are being considered for year-round closure with a 100-foot buffer. Six mangrove islands near Big Carlos Pass would be contained within the CWA boundary. Based on current bird use staff are proposing that only two of the islands would be closed year-round with a 100-foot buffer.

Buffers around nesting islands typically range from 50 to 300 feet and are established to provide adequate separation between people and birds. If approved, the buffers will be posted with in-water signs to provide proper notification for boaters.   

Visit MyFWC.com/CWA and click on “CWA public workshops” to see the complete list of CWA public workshops.



FWC Facts:
Biologists estimate 10,000-14,000 sturgeon live in the Suwannee River. Adult populations in other Gulf Coast rivers range from a few hundred to about 2,000.

Learn More at AskFWC