The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC), in conjunction with Audubon Florida, want to impose up to 300 feet of boundaries around 20 existing Critical Wildlife Areas (CWA). The boundaries would negatively affect the quiet enjoyment of nature by licensed touring companies, photographers, recreational kayakers, educators, and other entities interested in Florida wildlife.
FWC has not provided any proven scientific data supporting the benefits of increased boundaries; only anecdotal information has been released. In fact, the FWC/Audubon wildlife species survey shows an increase in wildlife population at numerous Critical Wildlife Areas.
FWC has presented photographs to the public in workshops showing a 6 foot area on the “traffic” side of some islands. FWC claims that wildlife activity is negatively affected by human intervention in these areas. However, private individuals as well as professional tour companies have testified that wildlife is indeed active and has not been compromised in the 6 foot traffic area.
The vast majority of photographers have quietly approached these areas from safe distances in accordance with NANPA Principles of Ethical Field Practices http://www.nanpa.org/advocacy/ethics/.
FWC’s website states in part “In Florida, wildlife viewing activities are popular among residents and nonresidents alike. These activities provide significant economic benefits for many individuals and businesses… When considered together, these diverse players constitute a significant industry contributing $5.8 billion to Florida’s economy. Given that wildlife viewing dollars are often spent in rural areas, the economic contributions of wildlife viewing can be especially important to rural economies.” Proposed excessive boundaries on two Critical Wildlife Areas in Sarasota and Manatee Counties alone will cause a loss of over $100,000.00 in revenue for educational tour companies, professional photography tour guides, hotels, car rentals, restaurants, and airlines.
Construction cost for proposed new boundary signs at Alafia Banks only have been estimated by a leading local Marine Contractor at $160,000.00
Human Interaction with wildlife at other rookeries:
Gatorland in Orlando and St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine are on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail. Both locations have a long history of close public contact with active nesting colonies attracting hundreds of thousands visitors every year. St Augustine Alligator Farm expanded its Native Florida Swamp Exhibit in the mid 1970’s and according to their website” “…inadvertently developed an outstanding natural bird rookery.” As an example, in the 2011 breeding season exhibit had over 800 nests.
Gatorland’s famous Bird Rookery opened to the public in 1991. According to their website “This unique habitat has grown into one of the largest and most accessible wading bird rookeries in Florida. Today, this area provides protected nesting, foraging, and roosting area to over 20 different species of birds, many of which are listed as Endangered or Species of Special Concern. Gatorland's boardwalks provide birders and photographers with close access to these incredible birds, allowing people to safely observe them and capture stunning photographs.”
Palm Beach County has two wetlands, Green Cay and Wakodahatchee, totaling 150 acres and approximately 3 miles of elevated boardwalks. These sites offer unprecedented access to wildlife to the public; over 140 species can be seen in these facilities. Both facilities host thousands of visitors during nesting and fledging seasons.
We respectfully urge the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider our point of view and the negative impact that excessive boundaries and restrictions could cause, not only to the recreational wildlife admirers, but also to the professional tour operators.
The economic benefit of preserving Florida’s natural habitat in a “human friendly” manner is crucial to the Sunshine State and its many residents and visitors.
The Preserve Access to Florida Wildlife petition to Florida Wildlife Commission was written by Wildlife Photographers and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.