FWC approves effort to protect vulnerable Florida wildlife

Some of Florida’s most vulnerable wildlife are about to benefit from an unprecedented conservation effort designed to help ensure their survival.

At its November meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a proposal to designate 13 new Critical Wildlife Areas and improve five existing CWAs.

“These new and improved Critical Wildlife Areas will serve as wildlife conservation hubs­–places that function as nurseries and feeding stations for signature Florida species,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “These small areas will have a huge impact on our vulnerable bird and wildlife populations, such as reddish egrets, roseate spoonbills and oystercatchers.”

CWAs are designed to protect concentrations of vulnerable shore and wading birds and other wildlife from human disturbance during critical life stages such as breeding, feeding or migration.

This year, the FWC undertook a statewide effort to identify areas where significant wildlife concentrations are subject to human-caused disturbance and where CWAs could be established to provide needed conservation, particularly for threatened species. Usually created one at a time and often years apart, this is the first time the agency has created multiple CWAs in nearly 30 years, and are among the first new CWAs in a generation.

“We applaud today’s move by Chairman Brian Yablonski and the Commission on establishing and expanding Critical Wildlife Areas in Florida,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida Deputy Director. “Audubon Florida remains committed to encouraging people to take care of and protect the places that make Florida special.”

The FWC conducted a statewide effort to obtain public input on proposals to establish new or improve existing CWAs. More than 400 people attended 14 workshops held throughout the state. The workshops were designed to explain how CWAs work and why they are needed, address questions from attendees, and gather public feedback about each proposal. The FWC used the feedback from the public and stakeholders to improve the initial CWA proposals.

“Much of our support is based on the trust we have built with the FWC,” said Brett Fitzgerald, executive director of the Snook and Gamefish Foundation. “We trust the FWC to do things which benefit the resource and the people.”

Including the 13 newly designated CWAs, there are now 33 CWAs in Florida. To learn more about Florida’s CWAs, visit MyFWC.com/CWA.