Critical Wildlife Areas (CWAs) are established by the FWC under a Florida Administration Code rule to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as nesting or migration. For each CWA, the boundaries and periods of time when portions of the area may be posted are defined in the CWA establishment order. Public access is prohibited within CWAs if posted, “Closed to public access.” Dogs, vehicles and vessels are also prohibited from posted areas. The boundary may be larger than the posted area due to the dynamic nature of habitat structure and use. Thus, the area closed each year may change.
Management of Critical Wildlife Areas is multi-faceted. The five regional biologists in the Species Conservation Planning Section, working with the CWA Coordinator, are responsible for evaluating the need for potential CWAs, developing or revising establishment orders, managing the posting of appropriate signage, and coordinating the monitoring of the wildlife populations using those areas each year. CWAs are monitored by biologists and protection efforts are coordinated with local government, other agencies, organizations, and FWC law enforcement personnel, as appropriate.
Almost all active CWAs support listed species, the most notable of which include: Alafia Banks (wading birds, oystercatchers and pelican rookeries); ABC Islands (wading birds and pelican rookeries); Fort George Inlet (terns and black skimmers); St. George Causeway (least terns); and Big Marco Pass (least terns, black skimmers, plovers and wintering shorebirds).
For additional information regarding Critical Wildlife Areas, please contact the CWA coordinator.
There are currently 18 CWAs across the state. Select the name on the map below to learn about each one.