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Management of CWAs

An educational sign alerts visitors that they are entering the Nassau Sound Islands Critical Wildlife Area. Beach and dune are visible in background.

Limiting human-wildlife conflicts in the coastal zone, specifically in Critical Wildlife Areas, is a high priority. Human-wildlife conflicts increase as the human population increases and areas available to wildlife decrease.

Even with the protections provided by a CWA designation, additional management strategies are needed to maintain habitat quality and ensure wildlife has the space and resources it needs to nest, rest, and feed successfully.

FWC collaborates with other agencies and partners to accomplish important management goals and activities at each CWA. For example:

  • Post sites annually. Pre-post historically used breeding sites where feasible.
    Posting establishes a buffer zone with signs and/or symbolic fencing to help prevent people, pets, vehicles and vessels from getting harmfully close to nests, roosts, or foraging areas.
  • Educate the public about the consequences of disturbance, habitat loss, and other threats to wildlife.
    The general public, especially beach-goers and recreationists, are often unaware of nesting and foraging species within CWAs, and that certain activities may disturb them. Programs, such as the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program, can help increase awareness and minimize disturbance through educational and outreach.
  • Coordinate with FWC law enforcement, non-sworn staff, and partners to minimize human disturbance at CWAs.
    FWC biologists work closely with regional law enforcement officers to develop patrol protocols for CWAs. Officers work hard to educate the public about CWA designations, wildlife, and associated rules. When needed, written warnings or citations may be issued for violations.
  • Develop effective monitoring protocols to evaluate breeding effort and productivity over time.
    Monitoring survey protocols may vary at different CWAs based on the habitat type, species present, or accessibility of the site. Important considerations include cost, accuracy, man-power, and minimizing disturbance to species present.
  • Identify site-specific habitat management needs.
    Vegetation management may be necessary when sandy beach nesting areas are lost to succession, or when nesting habitat within the CWA is lost to erosion or shoreline hardening. Removal of exotic vegetation, particularly predator perches (e.g. Australian pines), is a high priority. Marine debris and monofilament cleanup days are scheduled when it's safest to work within a CWA based on seasonal or daily use patterns.   
  • Identify opportunities for habitat creation.
    Efforts to protect remaining suitable habitat and to limit disturbance of nesting birds may not be sufficient to prevent declines. At some sites, nesting habitat may be created by depositing dredged material (spoil) to elevate or expand nesting areas.
  • Develop Best Management Practices for predator control.
    FWC coordinates with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and other institutions as necessary to develop Best Management Practices (BMPs) for mammalian and avian predator control where predation has exceeded the sustainable rate for a breeding population.
  • Identify sites that are subject to recurrent, problematic overwash and erosion and implement appropriate restoration measures.
    FWC and partners work with local governments and FDEP on plans for erosion control projects to minimize and avoid impacts to wildlife.
  • Seek management authority and funding for breeding sites on unmanaged state lands.
    Some CWAs occur on unmanaged state lands, meaning they are not under the jurisdiction of a state agency such as FWC, the Florida Park Service, or the Florida Forest Service. These lands are under the jurisdiction of FDEP’s Division of State Lands which does not have a dedicated management program.