Audubon Florida Update, November 18, 2016

Good morning Chapter Leaders:

You might have seen some of the good news for conservation this week, and I wanted to tell you how proud I am of what we, together as Audubon, have accomplished. In the last few days, there have been several amazing wins for Florida’s birds.

FWC created 13 new and expanded five existing Critical Wildlife Areas this week: At this week’s FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting in St. Petersburg, the Commission voted unanimously to create 13 new and 5 expanded Critical Wildlife Areas for coastal birds! Based in many cases on Audubon data, these protections will allow the posting of in-water buffers around nesting and roosting islands to protect rare and declining coastal birds from devastating disturbance. This vote was the culmination of more than a year of work for Audubon staff, chapters and partners who advocated at public meetings around the state during the summer and at full Commission meetings in Apalachicola, St. Augustine and St. Petersburg.  At the meeting, more than 28 supporters spoke including representatives from ten Audubon chapters. Despite objections from anglers and boaters opposed to these common sense protections, the FWC supported Audubon’s position to establish more CWAs in one year than were created in the last 30 years combined!

Audubon Florida coastal program secures $3.9M, four-year grant: On Tuesday, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced the award of two Audubon priority projects! NFWF awarded $11M to FWC and Audubon to grow our Florida Shorebird Alliance partnership. This includes nearly $4M over four years to support and grow Audubon Florida’s ongoing coastal bird conservation work! NFWF also awarded $8M to a second project we supported- UF researcher Dr. Peter Frederick’s initiative to restore and improve SLR resilience of oyster reefs essential to nesting and wintering American Oystercatchers and allies near Cedar Key.

Florida extended state Threatened protection to 23 imperiled species: This week FWC also adopted its new Imperiled Species Management Plan including the “uplisting” of 23 species from the old “Species of Special Concern” status to “state Threatened.” As a result, these species (including American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer, Reddish Egret and Burrowing Owl) will now enjoy much stronger protection in state permitting decisions. Three years ago, Audubon Florida successfully lobbied FWC to change its definition of “take” of state-Threatened species to match the federal take definition which includes the loss of habitat—as a result, development proposals that impact these species’ habitat will now be subject to minimization and mitigation under state law for the first time!

These victories were months and years in the making, and are a credit to Audubon chapters, our partners and staff/volunteers. We moved the needle in a big way this week for Florida’s birds and their habitats. Heartfelt thanks for your help in making this important work possible!