Important Bird Areas

Starkey Wilderness

Florida

Located in west-central Pasco County, bordered by State Road 52 to the north, the Suncoast Parkway to the east, State Road 54 to the south, and east of County Road 1 to the west.

A large, contiguous area of natural habitats between the developed Gulf coast and Tampa suburbs encroaching north into the Lutz and Land O' Lakes area. At Anclote River Ranch, Flatwoods Adventures tours run by the Starkey family present a history of cattle ranching in Florida, with an emphasis on native flora and fauna. J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park contains a magnificent mosaic of habitats, most notably large expanses of longleaf pine flatwoods interspersed with cypress swamps. Prior to public acquisition, the area was a native-range cattle ranch. Extensive areas of fire-maintained flatwoods comprise much of the park's eastern portion, with considerable sand pine scrub in the central portion, and oak forests and cypress swamps along the Anclote and Pithlachascotee rivers, which flow through the park. The Wilderness Park also serves as a wellfield that supplies <5 million gallons (about 20 million liters) of water per day to Pasco County residents. Access by motor vehicle is limited to a 60 acre (24 hectares) county park; the Wilderness Park is limited to those on foot, bicycle, or horseback, and hunting is prohibited. Starkey Wilderness Park was part of Anclote River Ranch prior to public purchase. Visitation is 9000 recreationists annually to the Ranch and 100,000 to the Wilderness Park.

Starkey Wilderness Park represents one of the largest and biologically most significant conservation areas in the Tampa Bay region.

Ornithological Summary

This IBA hosts large numbers of flatwoods bird species such as Brown-headed Nuthatches and Bachman's Sparrows. A few Florida Scrub-Jay groups occurred at the Wilderness Park until 1999, but now appear to be extirpated. There is good potential for the reintroduction of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers into the Preserve. Overall diversity is 190 native species.

Conservation Issues

*development (of ranch and surrounding area), *proposed highway, groundwater extraction

Ownership

Southwest Florida Water Management District (J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park) and the J.B. Starkey, Jr. family (Anclote River Ranch)

Habitat

Anclote River Ranch: *non-native pasture (1100 acres; 445 hectares), *longleaf pine flatwoods (850 acres; 343 hectares), *cypress swamp (620 acres; 250 hectares), sandhills (50 acres; 20 hectares), xeric oak scrub (50 acres; 20 hectares), sand pine scrub (50 acres; 20 hectares), and lacustrine (80 acres; 32 hectares). J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park: *longleaf pine flatwoods, *temperate hammock, *sand pine scrub, *cypress swamp, *riverine, sandhills, xeric oak scrub, fields, bayhead, freshwater marsh.

Land Use

Anclote River Ranch: *ecotourism, *grazing, conservation, hunting, timber production. J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park: *conservation, *water supply, recreation

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