Fisheating Creek FF Project,with acquired acreage known as Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area

Much of northern Glades County and a portion of southeastern Highlands County, generally from the GladesHighlands county line south to State Road 74, and extending east along Fisheating Creek to Lake Okeechobee. The Fisheating Creek IBA is adjacent to the BabcockWebb Ecosystem IBA to the west, and to the Lake Okeechobee IBA to the east. It is nearly contiguous with the Lake Wales Ridge IBA to the north.

A vast area west of Lake Okeechobee until recently mostly under a single ownership, roughly 26 miles (43 km) east to west. The state purchased the entire creek drainage in 1999 for $45 million, and intends to acquire perpetual conservation easements on >116,000 acres (>46,945 hectares) of adjacent uplands. In 2000, an adjacent ranch in Highlands County was added to the Fisheating Creek FF Project.

Ornithological Summary

The site is a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area for the Swallow-tailed Kite and Crested Caracara (+Cox et al. 1994), and contains a significant population of Florida Scrub-Jays. Within the area under public ownership is the largest staging area for Swallow-tailed Kites in the United States. Up to 2200 kites have been seen at once, and perhaps 3000 individuals use the roost annually, which represents about 60% of the North American population. Florida Grasshopper Sparrows previously occurred (and still may be present), and some areas are suitable for relocation efforts. Only a rudimentary bird list is available.

Additional Data:
Swallow-tailed kite (NB), used annually since discovery in 1986; highest numbers in the early 1990s - up to 2200 birds at once (1840 was peak in 2000); total use estimated at >3000 birds annually

Conservation Issues

*human disturbance, *habitat succession, exotic plants, feral hogs, runoff

By the early 1990s, the Swallow-tailed Kite roost moved from a cypress swamp to a grove of Australian-pines; disturbance from airboaters was thought to be the cause. ? Florida Scrub-Jay habitat is mostly overgrown from long-term fire exclusion. Habitat within the acquisition area should be restored via prescribed fire as soon as possible, and some arrangement for management of scrub in the easement areas should also be attempted. ? Reintroduction of ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrows into suitable (and if necessary, restored) dry prairie habitats within the FF Project should be considered. ? Invasive exotic plants mostly are limited to the Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee along the eastern edge of the site. ? Water quality in some canals has been reduced from agricultural runoff.

Ownership

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area) and private owners (unacquired acreage of the Fisheating Creek FF Project, and conservation easements; monitored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Habitat

*longleaf pine flatwoods, *temperate hammock, *dry prairie, *cypress swamp, *riverine, pine plantation, xeric oak scrub, non-native pasture, hardwood swamp, bayhead, freshwater marsh, cattail marsh, lacustrine, artificial, ?eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) plantation

Land Use

*conservation, *cattle grazing, recreation, hunting, timber production

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