Wildlife management areas are safe, natural havens for the public, too
Message from Kathy Barco
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Media contact: Kathy Barco
We are incredibly fortunate to have a vast system of public
lands in Florida. Over the years, the state has acquired a range of
local and state parks, forests and a wildlife management area
system that is one of the largest in the nation. These lands
sustain our fish and wildlife and maintain our outdoor heritage and
our connection with the natural world.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
operates our wildlife management areas under a multiple-use
concept, accommodating a range of public uses that are compatible
with fish and wildlife management. Wildlife management areas are
the only places where such varied activities as hiking, paddling,
hunting, wildlife viewing or horseback riding may be so widely
Most importantly, our WMAs, as we call them, have a long history
of multiple recreational activities conducted safely.
Millions of people visit our management areas every year to
fish, view wildlife, hunt and explore on foot, horseback or boat.
Those who come experience safe areas of scenic beauty with abundant
wildlife because of the well-managed habitat there. Sharing these
resources during hunting seasons is no exception.
As Florida has urbanized, fewer Floridians participate in or
have been exposed to hunting. This can lead to unnecessary
conflicts between users based on a lack of understanding and
inaccurate perceptions. Even worse, people may avoid visiting some
of the most beautiful places in our state. Learning about hunting
can change these misperceptions.
All hunters born after 1975 are required to complete a hunter
safety course before they can purchase a license. This requirement
contributes to Florida's long record of safely offering hunting
with other activities on public lands. The National Safety Council
documents hunting as one of the safest types of outdoor recreation,
and it continues to become safer.
A check of the different WMA locations at MyFWC.com/Recreation
quickly allows visitors to review the hunting calendar and plan a
trip around hunting activity if they so desire. Additional
information is provided that explains the character and popularity
of hunting seasons. For example, general gun season draws the most
users. During small game season, we typically see fewer hunters on
public lands. Shooting hours are noon to sunset for the first phase
of dove season. During spring turkey season, shooting hours end at
1 p.m. Visitors can use this type of information to plan the
experience they are seeking.
All of us share the same desire to enjoy the outdoors. Hunters
need to welcome other wildlife management area users, and these
users should extend the same courtesy to hunters and to each other.
By reaching out to get to know one another, we can reduce
potential conflicts and work together to sustain our public
Through mutual understanding and respect, we can continue our
heritage of access to public lands for ourselves and for future