Florida lost more than 260,000 acres of freshwater, emergent wetlands during 1985-1996, and the rate of loss of this wetland type more than doubled as compared to the rate during the 1970's-1980's period. Wetlands, particularly freshwater emergent wetlands, are essential for waterfowl and other wildlife, yet losses continue. Since Florida became a state, total wetland area has decreased by approximately 44%.
Wetland habitat in wintering areas such as Florida is important in the overall annual cycle of migratory waterfowl. Habitat conditions during this non-breeding period affect waterfowl survival and reproduction in subsequent years. Ducks must maintain or improve their body condition during winter to avoid mortality during spring migration and to meet the physiological demands of the nesting season (i.e., egg laying, incubation). The FWC's waterfowl staff devotes considerable resources to monitoring and managing these migrant birds and providing quality habitat for them in Florida.
Managing wetland habitat is critical to providing the greatest quantity and highest quality of habitat possible to support Florida's waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife. Without a large habitat base that includes breeding, migration, and wintering areas, waterfowl populations will decline despite any attempt to restrict sport harvest. Wetland habitat management has importance beyond its value to waterfowl by benefiting many other Florida plant and wildlife species.
The FWC provides technical assistance on wetland conservation and management issues around the state. We work with many agencies, organizations, and private landowners to cooperatively manage wetlands. Unfortunately, not all technical assistance produces a tangible increase in waterfowl habitat, but our input does cause the welfare of wetlands and waterfowl to be considered when resource management decisions are made. The FWC manages several wetland areas with a focus on providing waterfowl habitat.
Two partnership programs targeting waterfowl habitat conservation enhance the FWC's ability to conserve and manage wetland habitat for both resident and migratory waterfowl, as well as a host of other wetland wildlife. Since 1985, Ducks Unlimited has provided matching money to acquire and enhance more than 26,000 acres of wetland habitat in Florida. FWC has been a partner in projects on more than 20,000 of those acres.
Florida is a part of the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (ACJV) of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. This joint venture, among others, serves to implement wetland habitat management objectives and establish and maintain waterfowl population goals identified in the Plan. Joint ventures create partnerships to plan, fund, and implement wetland habitat projects within their respective geographic areas. ACJV partnerships will provide substantial benefits to Florida's fish and wildlife resources. Participating states include ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, PA, NJ, DE, MD, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, and FL.