What is Florida's Wildlife Management Area System?
Florida's Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to sustain the widest possible range of native wildlife in their natural habitats. These lands are more rugged than parks, with fewer developed amenities.
This system includes more than 5.8 million acres of land established as WMAs or Wildlife and Environmental Areas (WEAs).
Cooperative Areas - On the majority of these lands (about 4.4 million acres), FWC is a cooperating manager working with other governmental or private landowners to conserve wildlife and provide public use opportunities.
Lead Areas - On the remaining lands (about 1.4 million acres), FWC is the landowner or "lead" managing agency responsible for land stewardship and providing quality wildlife conservation and recreation opportunities including hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddling, scenic driving, and camping.
You can find out more about these lead, cooperative, and mitigation areas through our alphabetical listing, or by clicking on our regional map.
Why do we have to "manage" wildlife and wildlife habitat? Doesn't nature take care of itself?
Few Floridians-indeed few Americans-realize how much wildlife we have lost on this continent during the last few centuries. Spreading human settlement and demand for wild meat, plumes and pelts pushed many species into jeopardy, some into extinction, i.e. Carolina parakeet and passenger pigeon. By early in the 20th century, even white-tailed deer and wild turkey were reduced to fractions of their original populations.
Yet against this backdrop of loss is another great, untold story-100 years of wildlife conservation and recovery, as conservationists, sportsmen, and law enforcement lobbied for legislation to reverse wildlife declines.
Game and fish populations began to rebound as hunting and fishing harvests became better regulated, and refuges were created. Many states initiated wildlife management area programs similar to Florida's, where habitat could be actively managed, and wildlife populations restored. As a result, in our state, white-tailed deer, American alligators and wild turkey now thrive.
What are some of the ways biologists manage wildlife populations?
Some of the many tools biologists use to help wildlife thrive (and keep WMA users satisfied) include:
- species restoration
- habitat management and restoration
- survey and monitoring
- setting regulations and seasons for hunting and fishing
- outreach and education
How big is Florida's land management area system?
More than 5 million acres are managed as Wildlife Management Areas for both recreational and conservation purposes.
Who uses Wildlife Management Areas?
The wildlife management area system provides excellent sporting opportunities and are favored by some of the 3.1 million anglers who fish in Florida and our 226,000 hunters. Wildlife viewers, cyclists, horseback riders, paddlers and other nature lovers also find wild places to pursue their interests.