Thomas H. Eason, Ph.D., Director
620 South Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600
The Division of Habitat and Species Conservation (HSC) integrates scientific data with applied habitat and species management to maintain stable or increasing populations of fish and wildlife. Integration efforts focus on the ecosystem or landscape scale to provide the greatest benefits to the widest possible array of fish and wildlife species. Accomplishing this mission requires extensive collaboration and partnering with local, state and federal agencies to maintain diverse and healthy fish and wildlife populations for the benefit of all Floridians and visitors. Doing so provides direct ecological, economic, aesthetic, scientific and recreational benefits
To ensure healthy populations of all native wildlife and their habitats on a statewide basis.
- Manages aquatic habitat for marine, estuarine and freshwater systems to benefit the widest possible array of fish and wildlife.
- Manages natural plant communities on public lands for diversity of wildlife species while providing quality recreational experiences.
- Works in partnership with landowners to provide for a diversity of species.
- Provides support and assistance for habitat-related issues to private and public sector landowners, including local, state and federal governments, to inform and influence land- and water- use decisions affecting wildlife habitat management.
- Develops and implements species management plans that serve as conservation blueprints for managing threatened species, and implements conservation programs that are designed to maintain Florida’s unique wildlife diversity.
- Coordinates nonnative species management and research to protect native species in Florida, focusing on prevention, early detection and rapid response to introductions of nonnatives.
- Implements conservation programs for imperiled species such as manatees, Florida panthers and sea turtles to increase populations of these imperiled species.
- Directs, regulates and funds the control of invasive plants on public conservation lands and in public water bodies for the protection of native plant and animal life, human health, safety, recreation and property.anages aquatic habitat for marine, estuarine and freshwater systems to benefit the widest possible array of fish and wildlife.
Habitat and Species Conservation sections
Wildlife and Habitat Management
Florida has one of the nation’s largest systems of state-managed wildlife lands. The Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system includes 5.9 million acres. The Wildlife and Habitat Management section is the FWC’s lead manager on 1.4 million acres and assists cooperators with wildlife management on another 4.5 million acres. This section’s activities are designed to maintain, enhance and restore native natural habitats for the benefit of plant and animal populations and the citizens of Florida. Habitat management is adaptive and is based on sound land management principles and practices. Habitat management activities include prescribed fire, mechanical and chemical control of invasive exotics, and hydrology restoration. Section programs include land conservation, long-term management planning and a variety of surveys and monitoring designed to ensure management efforts are accomplishing desired objectives. Wildlife-centric public use is emphasized and promoted through development and maintenance of infrastructure designed to provide WMA users with a quality outdoor experience. Public use activities include a variety of hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration
This section uses a multidisciplinary approach to develop and implement comprehensive management programs to improve the ecological health of freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats. Its primary focus is identifying high-priority water bodies and implementing a variety of management treatments to maintain quality habitat for wetland-dependent fish and wildlife. Working with other agencies and user groups, this section builds cooperative relationships to address various issues affecting aquatic resources, including nutrient enrichment, water-use policy, and protection of rare and imperiled fish and wildlife.
Species Conservation Planning
Conserving Florida’s native wildlife diversity is the mission of this section. It develops and implements high-priority conservation activities for native wildlife, with an emphasis on threatened species. Partnerships with other governmental agencies (local, state and federal), nongovernmental organizations and individuals help achieve conservation goals for wildlife. This section manages most of the state’s threatened species and coordinates activities relating to Florida’s listing process and permitting of human activities that may affect listed species. A draft Imperiled Species Management Plan (ISMP) has been released to conserve 57 species currently listed as state-threatened or species of special concern. The ISMP combines specific species action plans with broader integrated conservation strategies benefiting multiple species. This section also continues development and implementation of the Coastal Wildlife Conservation Initiative, the Florida Shorebird Alliance, the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan, wildlife permitting and incentive-based conservation.
Imperiled Species Management
This section is responsible for conservation of manatees, sea turtles, panthers and black bears through implementation of federal recovery plans and state management plans. Staff in the programs with federally-listed species work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on management and recovery tasks. The Bear Management Program is working with local governments, communities and waste management companies to assist them with adopting BearWise measures such as securing garbage to reduce human-bear conflicts. It has initiated several tasks from the 2012 Bear Management Plan, including setting up seven Bear Stakeholder Groups throughout the state to provide the agency with input on how people and bears can coexist in their geographic regions. Other key section tasks include development of rules and regulations that provide needed protections, providing technical assistance to local governments and other state agencies for planning purposes and permit reviews, and addressing human-wildlife conflicts. The section coordinates with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s researchers to identify information needs that will assist in making management decisions. The section conducts outreach activities to encourage the public to become engaged in actions that will help these iconic species’ long-term survival.
Wildlife Impact Management
This section, recently renamed and reorganized, is the organizational home of two programs addressing human-wildlife interactions and managing the impact of native and nonnative fish and wildlife species. The role of the FWC’s wildlife assistance biologists is to assist the public with nuisance wildlife and conflict issues regarding many species, including coyote and bear, through education, outreach and technical assistance. Staff working with the nonnative fish and wildlife program are working with local, state and federal partners to manage invasive species in Florida, including Burmese pythons and tegus. The section works with staff in the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement’s Captive Wildlife and Investigations Sections to prevent nonnative species from harming native fish and wildlife and develop science-based regulations to prevent the release and establishment of nonnative species. The section also partners with other agencies to promote responsible pet ownership of nonnative wildlife and increase awareness of the problems associated with introduced species.
Invasive Plant Management
This section is responsible for directing, coordinating and funding two statewide programs controlling invasive upland plants on public conservation lands and invasive aquatic plants in public waterways. It regulates, through a permitting program, projects for control of aquatic plants that do not meet the eligibility requirements for state funding. The FWC protects Florida’s native plant and wildlife diversity through the management of invasive plants on public lands and waterways; dissemination of information; public education efforts; contractual research; and surveillance of plant communities on public lands and waterways. This section’s goal is to protect native fish and wildlife habitat by reducing existing populations of invasive plants and preventing new invasive plant populations from becoming established.
Conservation Planning Services
This office coordinates the agency’s review of and comments on growth management and regulated land and water use project proposals that have potential to impact Florida’s fish, wildlife and habitat resources. Conservation Planning Services staff utilize a science-based, proactive approach to inform and influence land and water use decisions to build public-private conservation partnerships with Florida landowners. Working with private and public sector landowners, this office develops and helps implement comprehensive habitat-based management plans and incentive programs for private landowners. New best management practices for conserving wildlife on private lands used for agriculture or commercial forestry have been developed in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Conservation Planning Services also provides managers of publicly-owned lands with technical assistance to implement wildlife conservation strategies that reduce negative impacts on fish and wildlife.