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New FWC chairman Kathy Barco’s first message

For immediate release: October 4, 2011
Monthly Message
By FWC Chairman Kathy Barco

Wildlife management areas are safe, natural havens for the public, too

We are incredibly fortunate to have a vast system of public lands in Florida. Over the years, the state has acquired a range of local and state parks, forests and a wildlife management area system that is one of the largest in the nation. These lands sustain our fish and wildlife and maintain our outdoor heritage and our connection with the natural world.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) operates our wildlife management areas under a multiple-use concept, accommodating a range of public uses that are compatible with fish and wildlife management. Wildlife management areas are the only places where such varied activities as hiking, paddling, hunting, wildlife viewing or horseback riding may be so widely available.

Most importantly, our WMAs, as we call them, have a long history of multiple recreational activities conducted safely.

Millions of people visit our management areas every year to fish, view wildlife, hunt and explore on foot, horseback or boat. Those who come experience safe areas of scenic beauty with abundant wildlife because of the well-managed habitat there. Sharing these resources during hunting seasons is no exception.

As Florida has urbanized, fewer Floridians participate in or have been exposed to hunting. This can lead to unnecessary conflicts between users based on a lack of understanding and inaccurate perceptions. Even worse, people may avoid visiting some of the most beautiful places in our state. Learning about hunting can change these misperceptions.

All hunters born after 1975 are required to complete a hunter safety course before they can purchase a license. This requirement contributes to Florida’s long record of safely offering hunting with other activities on public lands. The National Safety Council documents hunting as one of the safest types of outdoor recreation, and it continues to become safer.

A check of the different WMA locations at MyFWC.com/Recreation quickly allows visitors to review the hunting calendar and plan a trip around hunting activity if they so desire. Additional information is provided that explains the character and popularity of hunting seasons. For example, general gun season draws the most users. During small game season, we typically see fewer hunters on public lands. Shooting hours are noon to sunset for the first phase of dove season. During spring turkey season, shooting hours end at 1 p.m. Visitors can use this type of information to plan the experience they are seeking.

All of us share the same desire to enjoy the outdoors. Hunters need to welcome other wildlife management area users, and these users should extend the same courtesy to hunters and to each other.

By reaching out to get to know one another, we can reduce potential conflicts and work together to sustain our public lands.

Through mutual understanding and respect, we can continue our heritage of access to public lands for ourselves and for future generations.