Important Bird Areas

St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge

Florida

Brevard County
6254 acres (2530 hectares)

Two separate parcels in the northern half of mainland Brevard County: one portion is north of State Road 50 and west of Interstate 95, and the other is inside the triangle formed by State Road 407, State Road 528, and Interstate 95. Contiguous with part of the Upper St. Johns River IBA to the west, near the Brevard Scrub Ecosystem IBA to the north and south, and near the William Beardall Tosohatchee State Reserve IBA to the west.

An inland salt marsh fed from saline upwellings from a confined aquifer in the eastern floodplain of the St. Johns River. The refuge was established in 1971 in an unsuccessful attempt to preserve the ?Dusky? Seaside Sparrow. Most of the refuge remains closed to the public, but plans are underway for some compatible wildlife-oriented uses.

The Refuge preserves two large expanses of brackish marsh on the east side of the St. Johns River.

Ornithological Summary

Significant populations of FCREPA species; and significant natural habitats

Few bird data are available because the refuge has never been open to the public. However, it is known to support perhaps the largest population of Black Rails in Florida, one of only two known inland breeding sites in the state. A rudimentary bird list is available.

Conservation Issues

*habitat succession, exotic plants, feral hogs

St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge was purchased between 1970?1976 to protect the western population of the ?Dusky? Seaside Sparrow, which has been extinct in the wild since 1981 and in captivity since 1990. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly manage the property: a drainage ditch dug before public acquisition was not filled in, and fire lanes were not built. Between 1970 and 1977, six wildfires burned the Refuge, and the sparrow population plummeted from 143 males to only 11. By the time the USFWS had built the firelanes, in 1979, only 9 sparrows?? all males??remained +(Walters 1992). For other information on the ?Dusky? Seaside Sparrows, and the actions and inactions that drove it to extinction, see +(Sharp 1970), +(Delany et al. 1981), and +Kale (1996). ? The primary management objective of the Refuge is to restore the marsh to its original condition through prescribed fire and marsh restoration (e.g., filling in drainage ditches). ? Exotic plants are controlled as needed. ? A legal case is currently pending over illegal dredging and filling of refuge wetlands by a neighboring developer(!).

Habitat

*inland salt marsh, temperate hammock, sawgrass marsh, artificial

Land Use

*conservation

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