Opportunity to do good

By Amber Crooks | Senior Environmental Policy Specialist

Our coastal wildlife face a myriad of challenges from habitat loss, degradation, and pollution. In response, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has recommended designation of Critical Wildlife Areas (CWA) in our region, as well as other key locations around the state. CWAs are a sensible approach to address the threat of human disturbance and provide a refuge for native birds to successfully breed, roost, and forage.

In Southwest Florida, CWAs are proposed in Pine Island Sound, Estero Bay and Rookery Bay. The areas identified for CWA designation are small in size as compared with the vast extent of mangrove islands in Southwest Florida. However, they have been identified as essential for our protected bird species.

The three islands in Pine Island Sound are clearly the most critical, accounting for roughly 40% of the nesting birds, as documented in South Florida Water Management District reports [1] and include the highest peak nest count of brown pelican, as well as approximately 51% of the nesting effort for tricolored herons. [2] However, these critical areas account for only about 0.0007% of available waters in the Sound. [3]

Similarly, the CWAs proposed in the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve are also of vital importance, and contain the highest totals of nests[4] — approximately 75% of the area’s nesting on about 0.07% of the available waters. The remainder of lands and waters not being designated as CWA would largely be available for access and recreation.[5] The Conservancy reviewed wading bird reports from the last ten years[6] and these selected areas in Pine Island and Estero Bay have consistently been the highest utilized by protected birds. Of the approximately 150 islands that are in Pine Island and Estero Bay, these six clearly warrant protection as CWAs.

In Rookery Bay, where a CWA is already in place, FWC is proposing to refine the boundary and include islands where bird usage has been shown to have increased. These specific areas in Lee and Collier Counties host significant concentrations of birds, and through designation seek to balance recreation activities with conservation.

Many of the species that utilize the islands pinpointed for CWA designation are considered to be state-imperiled –such as little blue herons, great blue herons, tricolored herons, reddish egrets. The state of Florida has adopted recovery management plans in hopes of improving these species’ status. The designation of CWAs is a central strategy on these state recovery efforts.

It is also important to ‘keep common species common’, and not allow their populations to dwindle; as such, these islands are also important for pelicans, cormorants and anhingas.

If you want to show your support for this initiative, please write the FWC Commissioners through the Conservancy’s Action Alert available here:

Your continued support of the Conservancy will allow us to keep advocating for more protective management measures for conserving wildlife.

For more information about our work, visit: https://www.conservancy.org/our-work/policy/wildlife-and-habitat-protection.

[1] SFWMD, 2016. South Florida Wading Bird Report. Mark Cook, editor. January 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2016. Critical Wildlife Areas Proposals Update. September 9, 2016.

[4] SFWMD, 2016. South Florida Wading Bird Report. Mark Cook, editor. January 2016.

[5] Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2016. Critical Wildlife Areas Proposals Update. September 9, 2016.

[6] http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.