The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) completed 14 workshops held throughout the state to discuss proposals to establish new or improve existing Critical Wildlife Areas. More than 400 people attended the workshops, which were held as part of an unprecedented statewide effort to conserve some of Florida’s most vulnerable wildlife.
CWAs are established by the FWC under a Florida Administrative Code rule to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as breeding, feeding or migration.
“We thank everyone that took the time to be part of this important process, and we value the input and suggestions by all,” said FWC Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski. “Public turnout was strong at the workshops, and overall the feedback we received has been very supportive.”
At the workshops, FWC staff explained how CWAs work and why they are needed, and addressed questions from attendees. Audubon Florida and other partners provided valuable data on bird abundance and use of the areas under consideration.
The FWC will use the feedback received at these meetings to help evaluate the merits of each area for possible CWA establishment.
“We learned a great deal from boaters, fishermen, bird watchers and other local residents about the proposed areas,” said Kipp Frohlich, Deputy Division Director for the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “We are making a number of changes based on the valuable feedback we received from the public.”
A summary of public input along with staff recommendations will be presented at the FWC’s September meeting in St. Augustine.
“People love Florida because of its beauty—and a big part of that beauty is our birds,” said Julie Wraithmell, Deputy Executive Director for Audubon Florida. “Audubon congratulates the FWC on this inclusive process, to protect the species that make our state special.”
The FWC plans to further engage stakeholders living near these areas, conduct additional site visits and continue to accept comments throughout this process. Comments may be emailed to CWAcomments@MyFWC.com. The specific CWA name should be included in the subject line of the email. The final decision regarding the CWAs will be made at the November Commission meeting in St. Petersburg.
For more information on CWAs visit MyFWC.com/CWA.