Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative Newsletter - Summer 2015


Summer 2015

In this issue:

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How we operate: A closer look at FWLI

Brian Branciforte, FWLI Leader

Florida’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative (FWLI) operates a little differently than most parts of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – a few features make us unique among the rest. First, our effort is comprehensive, ranging from work in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater systems to filling data gaps on species of greatest conservation need, conservation planning, and adaptation to climate change. Since FWLI doesn’t solely identify with a single species, habitat or in one geographic part of the state, we lack the convenience of instant identity that comes with the ability to say, for example, “I work on turtles” – a challenge we willingly engage.

Another unique feature of the program is our Standing Team, which serves as our State Wildlife Grants Committee, assists with our goal teams, and helps guide and provide overall program support and direction. Standing Team members purposely represent a diverse cross-section of expertise and program areas. Lastly, FWLI maintains a robust wildlife grants program in which to engage partners and allocate funds. All of these features are voluntary by design and part of the culture of FWLI, because we believe it delivers the best conservation to our state. 

If you were to compare this process with others, it’s unlikely you would find another like it - and we’re proud to be conserving Florida’s Wildlife Legacy for future generations along with you.

Pie chart showing breakdown of SWG funds vs. matching funds to Florida

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Mike Sisson joins FWLI

MikeSisson New FWLI Staff

Please welcome Mike Sisson, our newest Wildlife Legacy Biologist!  Previously, Mike served as the Yellow Creek Watershed Coordinator for the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District in Ohio. In that position, he coordinated implementation of a Watershed Action Plan. Mike brings us a variety of knowledge and experience, including an extensive history of working with partners, stakeholders and private landowners on challenging conservation projects.  Additionally, Mike has a passion for herpetology, which has led to a variety of monitoring and research projects concerning the gopher frog and gopher tortoise. Mike is located in Panama City and will be co-leading FWLI’s freshwater goal.  You can reach him at Mike.Sisson@MyFWC.com

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Florida's State Wildlife Grants - New Projects Announced!

Florida’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative (FWLI) is excited to announce projects recently selected to receive State Wildlife Grant funding! During the past year, FWLI has worked with numerous external and internal partners in developing project scopes of work, drafting and posting announcements, and reviewing submissions. FWLI’s Goal Teams developed the following projects through both the general and targeted processes.  The proposed awards, listed below, total $1.5 million and will help FWLI achieve its 2012 to 2017 goals by implementing the State Wildlife Action Plan. All projects are expected to begin this summer.

List of SWG Projects to start summer 2015

FWLI thanks the FWC staff from many sections and the external partners without whom the latest State Wildlife Grants cycle would not have been successful. FWLI also thanks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Florida field offices and the Region 4 office in Atlanta for assistance and providing the funding that makes these projects possible.

If you are interested in State Wildlife Grant funding, contact Florida’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative

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Working to Restore Our Coral Reefs

Mary Truglio, Wildlife Legacy Biologist

Coral reefs in the Florida Keys have become substantially degraded over recent decades due to numerous stressors, including disease and climate variability.  Florida’s reefs now support a simpler coral assemblage, and have lost the dominant reef-building coral species necessary to construct the reef framework and fundamental to restoring this ecosystem.

In recognition of the degraded condition of the state’s coral reefs, Florida’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative (FWLI) and its partners set an Action Plan implementation goal to improve coral reef restoration and conserve Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) through planning and research. Objective 1 under this goal recently was achieved through a State Wildlife Grant (SWG) awarded to develop a comprehensive coral reef restoration plan for Florida. In the past, the lack of a unified restoration strategy has resulted in duplication of efforts in some restoration activities while vital gaps in others remain. This plan outlines the essential strategies necessary to affect a well-coordinated, comprehensive coral reef restoration effort in Florida.

Coral Reef

John Hunt and Bill Sharp (FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute) coordinated plan development through a series of meetings and workshops, coordinating with scientists and managers from across the state to identify and recommend the research and conservation actions necessary for coral reef restoration.  The identified research needs and prioritization of activities provided in the Plan are currently being used to fulfill Objective 2 of the goal, which is to implement the restoration plan using SWG funding through 2017. Although the plan is only recently finalized, implementation of actions identified by partners during the workshops has been taking place since 2012. At this time, SWG funding has supported 14 projects that fill critical information gaps and support priority activities identified in the plan.

For more information on the Marine Goal, please contact Mary Truglio

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Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership: Celebrating a Decade of Conservation Success

Lindsay Gardner, SARP Partnership & Communications Manager 

Jessica Graham, SARP Coordinator

A 10-year anniversary report, “Conserving Fish Habitat from the Rivers to the Sea: The Story of the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership,” highlights a decade of success stories achieved by the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) and its partners in the southeastern United States.

SARP’s mission is to preserve globally significant aquatic species, and the habitats they need to survive, before they are lost forever. With the support and involvement of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Fish Habitat Partnership, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and a variety of other state and federal agencies, councils and commissions, conservation organizations and businesses, SARP has served as a successful catalyst and network builder for habitat restoration, conservation and scientific research in the region.

The collaboration between SARP, FWC, the West Florida Resource Conservation & Development Council, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and The Nature Conservancy to restore mussel and bass habitat in the Chipola River is highlighted in the report (see page 9). Restoration efforts focused on addressing two major threats impacting a 2.3 miles stretch of the river: (1) sediment pollution from eroding riverbanks and (2) nitrate loading from cattle accessing the river and the lack of riparian buffers. The restoration project received a State Wildlife Grant through FWC’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative and was coordinated by Jessica Graham during her time as the Northwest Regional’s Wildlife Legacy Biologist. In March, Jessica shifted to her current role as the SARP Coordinator. 

Left: Cows access riparian zone and Right: Solar-powered well

Left: Cattle freely access the riparian zone, Courtesy of Florida DEP; 

Right: With fencing installed to exclude cattle from the river, cost share programs helped to develop solar-powered wells to provide an alternative water source, Courtesy of Jessica Graham

The 14 projects showcased in the anniversary report along with other projects carried out around Florida are accomplishing the goal of improving habitat and providing spawning areas for fish, especially for many of Florida’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The highlighted projects address the regional habitat objectives of Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the Southeast Aquatic Habitat Plan, and national conservation priorities, which all identified sediment pollution as a leading cause of stream impairment in the United States.

For more information on SARP’s partners, programs and conservation successes, please visit www.southeastaquatics.net, or contact Jessica Graham, SARP Coordinator, jessica@southeastaquatics.net.   

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Crossing the finish line! A list of recently completed State Wildlife Grant Projects

We don’t often take enough time to celebrate hard work and amazing accomplishments. Florida’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative would like to recognize the following principal investigators for their State Wildlife Grant-funded projects that have finished over the past year. The projects below demonstrate the wide variety of conservation efforts taking place in Florida – research, on-the-ground management and restoration, partnership-building, and mapping. For more information on the following projects, please contact Andrea.Alden@MyFWC.com or Robyn.McDole@MyFWC.com

Congratulations to all on work well done!

1. Are mooring buoys effective for managing vessel anchoring and coral reef impacts in south Florida? – Don Behringer, University of Florida (view the project abstract)

2. Applying NatureServe Conservation Status Assessments (Global and State Ranks) to Florida Species of Greatest Conservation Need – Gary Knight, Florida Natural Areas Inventory (view the FNAI Conservation Status Report here)

3. Survey of Winter-Breeding Amphibian Species in the Peninsula – Kevin Enge, FWC (view the abstract)

Striped Newt at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area

Striped newt - information was gathered on this SGCN and others, Courtesy of Kevin Enge

4. Cooperative Conservation Blueprint Phase III: Regional Pilot – Brian Branciforte, FWC (view the CCB website or the abstract)

5. Coral reef restoration and conservation: enhancing herbivory to restore the health and resiliency of Florida’s coral reef ecosystem – Bill Sharp, FWC (view the abstract)

6. Apalachicola Longleaf Conservation Initiative – Dave Printiss, The Nature Conservancy (view the abstract)

7. Developing Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Florida – Noah Matson and Natalie Dubois, Defenders of Wildlife (view the abstract)

8. Jay Watch – A citizen science program for adaptive management of Florida scrub – Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida (Jay Watch program continues through Audubon Florida, view the abstract)

9. Multistate Sandhill/Upland Longleaf Ecological Restoration Project (Phase II) - Dave Printiss, TNC, and Heather Hitt, FWC (View the abstract. Florida’s portion is complete, and partnering states - Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, & Mississippi - will finish in 2015.)

Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fire, Courtesy of Dave Printiss

10. Developing a Comprehensive Strategy for Coral Restoration for Florida – John Hunt and Bill Sharp, FWC (see article above: Working to Restore Our Coral Reefs)

11. The impact of mosquito control pesticides and elevated temperature on coral larvae physiology and settlement – Cliff Ross, University of North Florida (view the abstract)

12. Florida Vegetation and Land Cover Map – Beth Stys, FWC (Updated and improved land cover map of Florida was produced. The final map has been adopted by FWC and FNAI as the Cooperative Land Cover Map, CLC, version 3.0)

13. Shorebird and Seabird Conservation Program – Nancy Douglass, FWC (supporting the expansion of the Florida Shorebird Alliance, view abstract)

14. Florida Fire and Ecosystems Support Teams - Zach Pruzak, TNC (view the abstract)

15. Investigation of a previously undescribed octocoral disease affecting the Florida reef tract - Vanessa Brinkhuis, FWC (view the abstract)

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