Critical Wildlife Areas (CWAs) are established by the FWC under the Florida Administrative Code to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as nesting or migration. The landowner must support the CWA designation before a site can be considered for establishment. 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 restricted within CWAs only if posted, “Closed to public access.” Dogs, vehicles and vessels are also prohibited from posted areas. The boundary of a CWA may be larger than the posted area because the areas suitable for wildlife may shift. This also allows for only those areas important for wildlife to be posted at any given time. Thus, the area closed within the CWA boundary each year may change.
Proposals for new CWA designations and modifications:
The FWC is working on a statewide effort to conserve Florida’s most vulnerable wildlife by creating and modifying Critical Wildlife Areas throughout the state. Learn more about these areas.
Management of Critical Wildlife Areas
is multi-faceted. Posting of the areas, maintenance and removal of the signs is coordinated by the FWC with the assistance of partners. Monitoring the birds is done by FWC biologists, Audubon Florida staff, volunteers and partners. The FWC and partners also engage in habitat management such as removal of exotic plants and predator control. 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 20 CWAs across the state. Select the name on the map below to learn about each one.