Affiliate of the Week: Florida Wildlife Federation
Who We Are
For 80 years, Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) has been a leader on behalf of clean water, healthy fish and wildlife populations and sustainable outdoor recreation. FWF is working today on initiatives that introduce people to nature and the critical environmental issues surrounding them.
What We Do
The Florida Wildlife Federation is involved in a multitude of conservation efforts to protect Florida’s vast natural resources, from the Panhandle to the Keys. FWF is committed to land conservation in the face of tremendous population growth. Over the last two decades, more than 2.5 million acres have been saved from development, benefitting wildlife, water quality and quantity, open space and public enjoyment through the state’s Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever programs. FWF fought to establish and retain these programs and continues to defend the public’s right to access public lands.
In 2008, the Federation spearheaded the Conservation Easement Constitutional Amendment, which was approved by nearly 70 percent of voters, and now makes Florida first in the nation as to providing financial benefits for private land conservation easements. Presently, 573,000 acres are protected this way in Florida.
FWF was a founding member of Get Outdoors Florida, Wildlife Alert (to deal with wildlife crime) and The Future of Hunting in Florida to support lawful and sustainable hunting as a wildlife management tool and for outdoor recreation. FWF advocates a variety of outdoor activities on Florida’s lands and waters not only to promote physical fitness, but also to inspire a sense of stewardship over natural resources.
Clean energy, sound coastal policy and insurance reform are also areas of focus for FWF’s efforts. FWF opposes taxpayers subsidizing building and rebuilding in high hazard coastal areas at the expense of the natural coastal system. FWF assisted with the development of a film entitled “Battle for the Barriers: Nature Always Wins” by Teleduction, Inc.
FWF opposes oil drilling near Florida shores and participated in legal actions to prevent drilling in Florida’s Gulf Waters. In North Florida, FWF is actively seeking to save the Apalachicola River and Bay, recently filing an amicus action in a case before a Special Master in the United States Supreme on behalf of ecologically sustainable flows for the basin. In South Florida, the Federation opposes polluted and massive water discharge into public lands and estuaries and strongly supports Everglades restoration including the purchase of lands south of Lake Okeechobe for water storage, conveyance and treatment through the Now or Neverglades Campaign of which FWF is a sponsoring organization. (See ‘Making a National Impact’ section.)
FWF was a leading organization in the “Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign,” a ballot initiative which 75 percent of Florida voters supported in 2014. It created the largest state-level conservation funding source in U.S. history. Unfortunately the state’s legislature misappropriated these funds, and FWF is now challenging their actions in court.
FWF Signature Programs
The Florida panther and Florida black bear are important guiding species for FWF’s statewide conservation efforts since saving these keystone species also protects hundreds of other animals. The objective of the Florida Wildlife Federation is to safeguard wildlife by supporting habitat restoration and protection, promoting regional habitat networks that connect public and private lands and advocating for wildlife crossings on roads known to be deadly to wildlife.
Success with Panther Populations
Once inhabiting the entire southeastern United States, the Florida panther was placed on the federal Endangered Species list in 1967. In the early 1990s, only 30 panthers were thought to be left in the wild. Since 1994, FWF and its Southwest Florida Office have focused on saving this iconic species. Today, the population has increased to approximately 180 panthers and perhaps more. FWF’s emphasis on saving panther habitat from development has been just one of the keys to success.
Since wildlife road underpasses are essential to saving panthers and other Florida wildlife, FWF works with transportation and land use agencies across Florida to identify appropriate placement for crossings. FWF has been directly involved in the establishment of 50 crossings in southwest Florida and is currently funding a scientific study of wildlife use of these crossings. Countless panthers and other animals have been saved by wildlife underpasses.
Panther and Bear Education Programs
In partnership with the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) “Wings of Hope” Panther Posse and Bear Brigade, FWF helps to provide elementary school students in Southwest Florida a hiking adventure through Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) lands. These trips allow students to better understand the natural world through hands-on activities and the use of scientific instruments. Thousands of young Floridians in southwest Florida have taken part in these adventures.
Making a National Impact
Florida’s Everglades are an internationally-recognized environmental treasure. FWF has been a strong advocate for Everglades Restoration since its founding in 1936. FWF is a founding member of the Everglades Coalition, a 31-year-old advocacy partnership made up of environmental organizations, state and federal agencies and other important stakeholders. FWF supports the acquisition of significant new water storage around Lake Okeechobee to reduce destructive discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and promotes large scale wetlands restoration projects like Picayune Strand and the Kissimmee River Restoration Project.
FWF also supports National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) nationwide to protect critical areas for fish and wildlife and to increase citizens’ enjoyment and awareness of the natural world. FWF is opposing efforts by the South Florida Water Management District to break the 50 years plus lease on the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, reaching out to Governor Rick Scott in opposition to this. FWF is seeking increased federal funding for control of invasive “exotic” plant species within the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and other NWRs. This important effort has nationwide implications.