In 2017, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the wildlife management area system, one of the state’s greatest natural treasures. The FWC oversees this statewide network of remote and scenic lands, managing them for conservation and recreation. To celebrate the milestone and help people discover the opportunities these public lands offer, the FWC is hosting free events throughout the year.
“Florida has one of the largest systems of public lands in the country at nearly 6 million acres, and these lands are the best of the best of what wild Florida has to offer,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “These natural communities span a variety of habitats from longleaf pine uplands and pine flatwoods to the hardwood hammocks and sawgrass savannas of the Everglades. Not only are these areas beautiful, they are managed to provide habitat for many species of wildlife and access for people to enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and more.”
Florida’s first WMA, Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area, was established in late 1941 in Charlotte and Lee counties. By the 1960s, there were 28 WMAs. Today, the FWC is the lead manager or landowner of over 1.4 million acres, and works in partnership with other governmental or private landowners on another 4.5 million acres. These healthy habitats are essential to Florida wildlife – both common and imperiled species. The FWC uses its scientific expertise and a comprehensive ecological approach to manage a variety of wildlife while balancing public access to these wild lands.
WMAs provide many recreational opportunities including paddling, fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and target shooting at areas with a public shooting range. They also offer a wide range of hunting opportunities including special hunts for families and people with disabilities. Throughout 2017, the FWC will host a variety of events to celebrate Florida’s WMAs. Events include a statewide geocaching challenge, volunteer work days, a photo contest, guided hikes, fun opportunities to explore WMAs, and citizen science bioblitzes where members of the public help document wildlife species at WMAs.
To learn more about upcoming events or to find a WMA near you, visit MyFWC.com/WMA75. Share your visits to Florida WMAs on social media by using #WMAzing.