Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Floridalast updated: January 2013

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program is the Service’s most popular and effective programs for voluntary, citizen and community-based fish and wildlife habitat restoration activities. The Partners program serves as a bridge to owners and managers of private lands to develop partnerships for the benefit of the Service’s Trust Species. Its approach is simple: Engage willing partners, through non-regulatory incentives, to conserve and protect wildlife values on their property.

The focus of the Partners Program in Florida is on restoration of native habitats (i.e., longleaf pine, sandhill scrub), restoration of degraded streams and wetlands, and eradication of invasive and exotic species.

The Partners Program also provides technical assistance to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and to landowners participating in conservation programs administered by USDA under the Farm Bill (e.g., Wetlands Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and Conservation Reserve Program).

Habitats of Special Concern
The Partners Program works with private landowners to restore and enhance habitat for Florida’s only endemic bird, the Florida scrub-jay. The scrub-jay depends on the xeric scrub ecosystem. This high and dry land is very desirable for residential and commercial development as well as agricultural uses such as grazing and citrus production. The plight of the scrub-jay clearly demonstrates the relationship between habitat loss and species decline; however, partnerships with organizations such as the St. Johns River Water Management District, The South Florida Water Management District, The Tampa Bay Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Manatee, Hillsborough, Volusia and Brevard Counties, along with several private landowners in Florida have led to Partners projects that have restored or enhanced over 4,384 acres of scrub habitat.

Habitat Loss
When Spanish explorers dropped anchor in Florida waters nearly 500 years ago, Florida was essentially one large natural area that supported a population of about 100,000 Native Americans. Wildlife roamed freely across 35 million acres in search of food, water, and shelter. The road system in pre-Columbian times consisted of narrow foot paths that were used by panthers, bobcats, and black bears, as frequently as by Native Americans. The few human edifices that were present quickly gave way to a surrounding landscape of tall majestic trees, most hundreds of years old, and extensive prairies and marshes (Cox et al. 1994). Today, many species are caught in a state of siege as the habitat needed to sustain wildlife populations rapidly disappears. In the last 50 years Florida’s population has grown from less than three million people to more than 17 million (up three million from 1990) and that number is growing by 833 people per day (net) (U.S. Census Bureau 2000). More than 8 million acres of forest and wetland habitats (about 24 percent of the State) have been cleared to accommodate this growth. As the human population continues to grow increased demands will be placed on Florida’s remaining natural systems and wildlife populations will be forced into smaller and smaller areas as a result (Cox et al. 1994).

Conservation Strategies
Conservation Partnerships
While the Partners Program has worked diligently to developed restoration projects with individual landowners, it has also made a major effort to form partnerships with conservation organizations, state agencies, and local units of governments to create habitat restoration initiatives for the benefit of the private landowner and Florida’s wildlife. The Partners Program worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to develop a private landowner assistance program to meet specific restoration goals that are identified in the Florida Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy Plan.

Partnerships have also been developed with The Nature Conservancy and the Regional Invasive/Exotic Plant Working Groups to assist private landowners with eradication of invasive/exotic plant species on their land. Other conservation partnership initiatives include working with Water Management Districts and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to restore, enhance, and protect in-stream habitats for the benefit of aquatic species.

Historically, Florida wetlands were viewed as an obstacle to progress. Until the 1970s, wetland drainage and destruction were accepted practices that were often encouraged by certain government agencies. Today, wetlands are viewed as some of the most biologically productive habitats within the State. Coastal wetlands serve as nursery areas for many economically important marine species, while other wetland areas provide feeding, breeding, and sheltering areas for numerous other fish and wildlife species.

 The Partners Program is assisting private landowners in their efforts to restore degraded wetlands. Since 1996, 8,957 wetland acres have been restored for the benefit of Florida’s unique wildlife. Many of these projects simply involve plugging ditches that were designed to drain the site, while others involve the extensive use of heavy equipment to install water control structures and restore microtopography. The cost of wetland restoration projects average approximately $600 per acre.

The Partners Program also works cooperatively with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Florida currently ranks fifth nationally in acres enrolled in the WRP, with over 122,000 acres of degraded wetlands being restored for the benefit of Florida’s fish and wildlife.

Streams and Riparian Areas
Florida streams and rivers are home to many fish and wildlife species. Many of these streams have become degraded due to human influences. The Partners Program is working with ranchers and other private landowners to establish conservation buffers. Conservation buffers are vegetative strips along streams and rivers that help improve Florida water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment loads. In some of the more degraded streams, Partners biologists have used in-stream techniques to redesign impacted stream channels to stabilize the stream to reduce erosion and improve fish and wildlife habitat. Riparian buffer projects typically cost $2 to $4 per foot. Costs for in-stream restoration projects range from $35 to $85 per foot.

Xeric Scrub
Florida’s ancient xeric scrub once covered approximately 7,000 square miles. Today less than 600 square miles remain. Conversion of land for agricultural, residential and commercial development, combined with fire suppression jeopardizes the long-term survival of this ecosystem.

Xeric scrub habitat
The Partners Program is working with local governmental organizations and private landowners to restore or enhance Florida’s remaining scrub habitat. The Partners Program is currently working on projects that will lead to the restoration of over 2,000 acres of scrub habitat in Lake, Manatee, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Martin, Osceola, Polk, and Volusia, Counties. Restoration costs for scrub projects average $500 to $700 per acre; however, costs can exceed $1,000 per acre when extensive mechanical work is required.

Native Forest
The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered approximately 90 million acres in the southeast United States. Today, less than 3 million acres remain, mostly in the coastal plains of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Texas.  In Florida, the Partners Program is working to provide economically feasible options to help restore the longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem on private lands. Once established, longleaf pine offers drought, insect, disease, and fire resistance which can lead to greater survival and higher economic return. To reduce restoration costs, the Partners Program purchased a seed harvester for use within the State to allow landowners and conservation groups to harvest their own wiregrass seed. Costs to restore longleaf pine/ wiregrass typically range from $175 to $350 per acre.

Threatened and Endangered Species
Florida is home to many federally listed plant and animal species. The Partners Program gives funding priority to projects that provided benefits to threatened and endangered species and works with landowners to develop projects that restore their habitats. Additionally, the Partners Program is working together with regulators to develop safe harbor agreements that provide regulatory assurances to landowners who implement management practices on their land for the benefit of threatened and endangered species.

Exotic Species
Florida faces unique challenges with respect to invasive/exotic species. Australian pines have devastated beach plant communities, Brazilian pepper now infests over 1 million acres in the State, melaleuca has displaced native vegetation in nearly 400,000 acres of wetlands, and hydrilla has displaced native aquatic vegetation in over 50 percent of Florida’s water bodies (Langeland et al. 1998). The Partners Program is working with private landowners and local interest groups to develop initiatives to raise awareness of invasive/exotic species and to develop programs to implement treatment programs. Costs associated with the treatment of invasive species typically range from $50 to $1,200 acre.

The Partners Program has been active in Florida since 1996. Since that time partnerships between private landowners and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have achieved the following results:

  • 4,384 acres of projects to improve sandhill scrub habitat for the Florida scrub-jay.
  • 11,090 acres of longleaf pine restored/enhanced.
  • 2,084 acres in other upland habitat projects.
  • 7,755 acres in wetland restoration projects.
  • 6.5-mile (954-acre) shoreline restoration project at Lake George located on the St. Johns River.
  • 58.9 miles of riparian buffer and stream bank restoration projects.
  • 56.5 acres in aquatic restoration projects.
  • Treatment of 4,266 acres of invasive/exotic species in conjunction with wetland and upland restoration projects.

Future Needs

  • Restore/enhance approximately 200,000 acres of sandhill scrub habitat for the benefit of the Florida scrub-jay and other scrub dependant species.
  • Work with private landowners who want to voluntarily restore longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat on private lands within the 4 million acres of historically supported longleaf pine forests.
  • Restore or enhance in-stream and riparian habitat.
  • Restore native habitats degraded by invasive species.
  • Establish conservation partnerships with Water Management Districts and other conservation organizations to deliver technical and financial assistance opportunities to private landowners.



ate Coordinator

Stan Simpkins
Fish & Wildlife Biologist
Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200
Jacksonville, Florida 32256-7517
(904) 731-3096 (direct line)
(904) 731-3336 (main office line)
(904) 731-3045 or 3048 (fax)

North and Central Florida

Counties: Alachua, Baker, Brevard, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Putnam, St. Johns, Seminole, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, and Volusia counties

Annie Dziergowski 
Fish & Wildlife Biologist
Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200
Jacksonville, Florida 32256-7517
(904) 731-3089 (direct line)
(904) 731-3336 (main office line)
(904) 731-3045 or 3048 (fax)

South Florida

Counties: Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Sarasota, and St. Lucie counties

Erin Myers
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Florida Panther Natl. Wildlife Refuge
3860 Tollgate Blvd., Suite 300
Naples, FL 34114
Phone: (239) 353-8442 ext. 232
Fax: (239) 353-8640

Florida Panhandle

Counties: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington counties

Chris Metcalf
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Panama City Fisheries Office
1601 Balboa Avenue
Panama City, FL 32405
Phone: (850) 769-0552 ext. 224
Fax: (850) 763-2177





Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Florida

Contact Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Florida

Stan Simpkins
Fish & Wildlife Biologist
7915 Baymeadows Way
Suite 200
Jacksonville, Florida  32256-7517
Phone: (904) 731-3096
Fax: (904) 731-3045


Service Area

Statewide Program in:
  • Florida

Office Locaters

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