News Releases

FWC requests public input at Critical Wildlife Area workshops

News Release

Monday, July 18, 2016

Media contact: Greg Workman, 352-239-2763; Carli Segelson, 772-215-9459

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: External Website

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding public workshops to share information about and solicit comments on the proposal to designate new Critical Wildlife Areas and modify five existing CWAs throughout the state. The proposed designations are part of a statewide initiative to conserve some of Florida’s most vulnerable wildlife.

CWAs are established by the FWC under a Florida Administrative Code rule to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as breeding, feeding or migration.

Along the central east coast, the FWC is considering designating three new CWAs: Stick Marsh Rookery and BC49 in Brevard County and Port Orange Colony in Volusia County.

Here is a schedule for the central east coast area workshops:

  • Stick Marsh Rookery–6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25 at the City of Fellsmere City Council Chambers, 21 S. Cypress Street, Fellsmere.
  • Port Orange Colony–6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26 at the Piggotte Community Center, 504 Big Tree Road, Daytona Beach.
  • BC49 –6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27 at the Brevard County Barrier Island Sanctuary, 8385 S. Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach.

 “This initiative to create more CWAs throughout the state is not just for bird watchers and wildlife aficionados,” said FWC Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski. “This is something for everyone, and we want everyone to have an opportunity to be a part of the process.”

The FWC will use the feedback received at these meetings to help develop the recommendations for each of the CWA designations and modifications. These recommendations will be presented at the FWC’s September meeting.

“Florida is renowned for its wealth of charismatic waterbirds, but they have fewer and fewer safe places to nest and rest,” said Julie Wraithmell, Deputy Executive Director for Audubon Florida. “FWC’s leadership on this effort will help ensure these places thrive for future generations of birds and people alike.”

There are hundreds of islands similar to the ones being considered for CWA designations. However, only a few have the right combination of factors that draw in birds to nest and roost there. Because the birds gather in such large concentrations in such small areas, CWAs are an extremely effective conservation tool.          

Stick Marsh Rookery consists of two small islands in the northeast corner of the marsh. The islands serve as nesting habitat for roseate spoonbills, herons, egrets and anhinga. Its proximity to the road and boat ramp has made it popular with nature photographers. Fishermen can also create a disturbance when they pass by too close to the islands. The proposed CWA would prohibit public access onto the islands year-round and include a buffer that would range from 15 to 75 feet to keep wildlife photographers and boat traffic at a safe distance. The buffer would close the cut between the two small islands.

Port Orange Colony is an island in the Halifax River which is less than 200 feet from a boat ramp and is therefore subject to considerable traffic. A large group of brown pelicans and egrets, as well as pairs of American oystercatchers use this island. FWC staff are proposing to limit public access to the island year-round and provide an in-water buffer that ranges from 25 to 200 feet to provide separation from the heavy boat traffic.

BC49 is a spoil island in the Indian River – Malabar to Vero Beach Aquatic Preserve. In 1990, the Brevard County’s spoil island management plan gave the island a conservation designation because of heavy use by nesting and roosting wading birds, such as wood storks, brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, herons and egrets. Disturbance here is primarily caused by boaters and kayakers. Staff are considering seasonal closure from January to August with a buffer of 50 to 75 feet for this CWA.

Buffers around nesting islands typically range from 50 to 300 feet and are established to provide adequate separation between people and birds. If approved, the buffers will be posted with in-water signs to provide proper notification for boaters.   

Visit and click on “CWA public workshops” to see the complete list of CWA public workshops.

FWC Facts:
Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards.

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