FWC approves new Critical Wildlife Area in Volusia County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today approved a new Critical Wildlife Area in Volusia County.

The small island, known as Port Orange Colony and now approved as a CWA, shelters hundreds of brown pelicans during nesting season. It is less than 2 acres but is one of the largest breeding sites for brown pelicans along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Other vulnerable shorebirds documented to nest there include the tricolored heron and American oystercatcher. Also breeding and sheltering on the island are snowy egrets, great egrets, double-crested cormorants and great blue herons.

“Protecting Florida’s birds is what gave rise to the conservation movement in the United States,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “This is a legacy moment that we leave for the ages as a Commission,”

In November 2016, the FWC significantly increased the number and range of Critical Wildlife Areas, created by the agency to protect critical wildlife in its most vulnerable stages from human disturbance. At that time, 13 new CWAs were added and five existing CWAs were expanded. The proposal to establish the Port Orange CWA was postponed because of questions about ownership of the property that have since been resolved.

Once the Port Orange CWA is established, it will be closed to public access from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31. The protected area includes a water buffer around the island of anywhere from 10 to 150 feet. Signs will be posted in the water to alert the public to stay out of the CWA during the closed dates.

In 2016 before establishing and expanding CWAs, the FWC conducted a statewide effort to present the proposals and obtain public input. More than 400 people attended 14 CWA workshops throughout the state. The agency then used the public feedback to improve the CWA proposals.

Learn more about Florida’s CWAs at MyFWC.com/CWA.