Western Everglades Conservation

Drawing on over a century of Audubon work to protect the plume birds of Corkscrew Swamp and the Everglades, Audubon of the Western Everglades (originally "Collier County Audubon Society") was born of efforts to save the irreplaceable resources of the Rookery Bay Estuary in 1961. AWE leaders then saw the need to address estuary and coastal impacts far up the regional watersheds.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Audubon Florida, plus its 44 chapters statewide, are our strategic allies in science-based efforts to balance sustainable human communities and vital Western Everglades resources. That science leads to our use of imperiled Wood Storks, Florida Panthers, and Beach Nesting Birds as indicators of needed conservation action.

From the estuaries and beaches of the Ten Thousand Islands, Caloosahatchee River, Rookery, Naples and Estero Bays to the swamps and prairies of Big Cypress, Fakahatchee and Corkscrew, Audubon of the Western Everglades has grown to protect and restore the vitality of both our economy and our ecology rooted in these resources.

Issues & AWE-inspiring Actions

Audubon success with new Critical Wildlife Areas: At the FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting in St. Petersburg on November 17, 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! Read more HERE.

Florida Panther Protection Program: In cooperation with 8 major landowners and three other conservation groups, Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) works to incentivize ranchers and farmers to protect and restore huge acreages of connected Florida panther habitat. Additional sustainable development rights are granted in impacted areas for stewardship actions in core habitat. Read more HERE.

Everglades Restoration: AWE, in collaboration with many allies, is advocating essential ways to move more water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay, while restoring estuarine, wetland and upland habitats along the way. That currently involves building the C-43 Reservoir, the Central Everglades Planning Project, Picayune Strand (South Golden Gate), and overdue federal authorization via Water Resource Development Act (WRDA). It also could involve RESTORE Act funds from the BP oil spill penalties. See more Everglades Restoration information HERE.

Wetland Rules and Restoration: The nation and the Everglades have continued to lose wetlands despite the "No Net Loss" policy since 1989. AWE and Audubon Florida are advocating better rules in current state rulemaking to be mirrored in federal procedures, in addition to expanding wetland restoration. This is what is needed to bring Wood Stork back to Corkscrew Swamp and the Everglades. Read the AWE/Audubon Florida letter.

Ways to Help

Collier Shorebird Stewards: Every April ­ August, thousands of imperiled beach nesting birds arrive on Marco Island's Sand Dollar spit to raise their young. Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE), in partnership with other groups/agencies, trains volunteers each spring to "steward" these large colonies, taking data and sharing quick messages with the public. Please consider joining us. It is hard work but very rewarding. Email Brad Cornell.

Volunteer: Staffing exhibition tables at events, leading field trips, participating in bird counts/monitoring and other citizen science work, assisting education and Young Birders' Club, plus technical advocacy help all require staffing well beyond our three professional positions. Please call the office for more information: (239) 643-7822.

Audubon Florida Conservation Network: Audubon Florida has developed an online advocacy center that is effective at targeting messages from citizens to decision makers on important environmental issues. It also shares fact sheets, topic-specific brief newsletters, and tools to be a great Florida and Western Everglades conservation advocate. Sign up by clicking HERE.

JOIN US! Our voice for conservation is amplified tremendously when you join us. Please consider becoming a member of AWE today by clicking HERE.