Important Bird Areas

Myakka River Watershed

Florida

Myakka River State Park, 15024 ha
Myakka State Forest, 3449 ha
Pinelands Reserve, 2489 ha
T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve, 9941 ha
Myakka River Watershed SOR Project, 11644 ha

In extreme southeastern Manatee County, much of Sarasota County, and extreme western De Soto County, east of Interstate 75 between County Road 780 and the Sarasota?Charlotte county line. Near the Oscar Scherer State Park IBA to the west.

A large area of public and private lands surrounding the Myakka River, from Upper Myakka Lake to within 10 miles (16 km) of Charlotte Harbor. The centerpiece is Myakka River State Park, established in 1936 as one of Florida's first conservation areas. In recent years, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Sarasota County have been purchasing extensive acreage around the park to buffer it from massive development encroaching from the north and west. All the other sites within this IBA are recent acquisitions, and limited avian data are available. T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve also functions as a county wellfield, providing 5?7 million gallons (19?26 million liters) of water per day, while Pinelands Reserve contains a county landfill. Myakka State Forest was purchased in 1995; no data were provided for this site, nor for the Myakka River Watershed SOR Project.

The Myakka River is designated as a Wild and Scenic River, and as an Outstanding Florida Water. Part of this IBA has been designated by +Cox et al. (1994) as a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area. Myakka River State Park is one of the oldest and largest units in Florida's state park system, and is part of an extremely significant large, intact natural area in the region. Acquisition began in 1936, and the Civilian Conservation Corps developed the park's facilities. Twelve of the 13 original CCC buildings remain in use, and are considered historically significant. Pinelands Reserve supports 5 listed plants and 6 listed animals. T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve supports 20 listed plants and 30 listed animals, including occasional observations of Florida manatee and Florida panther. A number of cultural and historical sites also are present.

Ornithological Summary

Significant populations of FCREPA and Watch List species; significant numbers of wading birds and wintering Sandhill Cranes; and significant natural habitats

Sites contain breeding species typical of pine flatwoods, and the wetlands support significant numbers of wading birds. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are not known to occur currently (they are included on the Myakka River State Park checklist from historical reports), but the large amount of pine flatwoods within this IBA suggests that relocation may be an option in the future. Extensive acreage of dry prairie habitat at Myakka River State Park may be suitable for translocating ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrows to better ensure the survival of this Endangered subspecies. Overall diversity is 250 native species.

Conservation Issues

development, *exotic plants, *feral hogs

Myakka River State Park: The five-year management plan (dated 29 July 1999) specifies maintaining or restoring natural communities. Approximately 12,000 acres (4856 hectares) of the park are burned annually to maintain fire-dependent communities such as dry prairie and pine flatwoods. Over the next five years, at least 1000 acres (404 hectares) of overgrown dry prairie habitat will be roller-chopped annually to return a natural fire regime. ? Invasive exotics such as feral hogs, hydrilla, cogongrass, tropical soda apple, Japanese climbing fern, air-potato, Brazilian pepper, and punktree are treated or removed. ? Hydrologic improvements planned include dechannelizing Clay Gulley, minimizing damming of water by the main park road, and possibly removing the weir and dike below Upper Myakka Lake. ? Park plans include maintaining at least five groups of Florida Scrub-Jays onsite. Pinelands Reserve: The land management plan (dated November 1992) requires restoration and maintenance of natural communities present onsite. Approximately 2000 acres (800 hectares) of flatwoods, dry prairie, and marshes are burned annually. Some areas (200 acres; 80 hectares) have been roller-chopped to reduce palmetto height and density. ? Invasive exotics, primarily feral hogs, Brazilian pepper, Australian punk tree, cogongrass, West Indian marsh grass, and tropical soda apple, are removed as needed. ? Restoration of Old Cow Slough has benefited wading birds and waterfowl. T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve: A land management plan (dated June 1994) requires restoration and maintenance of natural communities onsite. Approximately 8000 acres (3237 hectares) of flatwoods, dry prairie, and marshes are burned annually. A timber management program was recently implemented to thin overgrown flatwoods. Some areas (<200 acres; <80 hectares) have been roller-chopped to reduce palmetto height and density. ? Invasive exotics (primarily feral hogs, Brazilian p

Ownership

Florida Division of Forestry (Myakka State Forest), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Myakka River State Park), Southwest Florida Water Management District (Myakka River State Park and Myakka River Watershed SOR Project), Sarasota County Resource Management (Pinelands Reserve and T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve), and private owners (conservation easements and remaining acreage of the Myakka River Watershed SOR Project)

Habitat

*slash pine flatwoods, *temperate hammock, *dry prairie, *freshwater marsh, *riverine, *lacustrine, longleaf pine flatwoods, xeric oak scrub, fields, non-native pasture, hardwood swamp, bayhead, sawgrass marsh, artificial

Land Use

*conservation, *recreation, *county landfill (Pinelands Reserve only), *wellfield (T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve only)