USA names key Florida sanctuary

14/10/2009

Following on from the United States’ designation of the Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest in the state of South Carolina in 2008, that Party’s 25th Ramsar site has been named as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which is owned and managed by Audubon of Florida. The new site (5,261 hectares; 26°24’N 081°31’W) lies inland of the cities of Naples and Ft Myers and provides a vital link between several south Florida watersheds. Although it is privately owned, the site’s level of protection corresponds to the IUCN category IV for National Park.

As summarized by Ramsar’s Nadia Castro, based on the Ramsar Information Sheet that accompanied the designation, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary  contains pine flatwoods, wet prairies, cypress swamps, and marshes. The majestic 600-years-old bald cypress trees reach heights of 40m and comprise the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in North America. The endangered wood stork (Mycteria americana) nests high in these trees. In addition, nearly 200 species of birds – including the vulnerable (IUCN) Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), the critically endangered (IUCN) Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus), and 22 species of threatened or endangered orchids live on the site.

Part of the site, formerly used for wetland mitigation by Panther Island Mitigation Bank, covers created/restored marshes. Nowadays, the site is used for conservation and – in limited areas – scientific research and tourism, and is now is owned and managed by Audubon of Florida. Removal of invasive exotic species, especially of invasive plants and of wild hogs, is a continuing challenge. The Blair Audubon Center within the site serves as a model for National Audubon Society education and interpretation centers throughout the country. Ramsar site no. 1888. Most recent RIS information: 2009.

Audubon press release (PDF)



(Photo: Mike Knight)



(Photo: Jason Lauritsen)



(Photo: Mike Knight)



(Photo: Mike Knight)



(Photo: Mike Knight)



(Photo: Jason Lauritsen)



(Photo: Mike Knight)

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