Hurricane Irma Recovery Priorities and Needs

Hurricane Irma impacts reverberated across all operations and affected our biological, visitor services, maintenance, and law enforcement programs that support habitat and species management on all four national wildlife refuges in the Florida Keys. There is only one visitor services park ranger, one biologist, two Federal wildlife officers, and two maintenance people on staff for all four national wildlife refuges in the Florida Keys, which encompasses approximately 417,550 acres (a little over half the size of Rhode Island). We have over 30 endangered or threatened species we manage for as well as the last remaining large intact pine rocklands habitat left in Florida. We also welcome over 100,000 visitors annually. 

As a result, we anticipate recovery from all the impacts will take a long time and will depend on funding, personnel capacity, partners, and community support. As such, our priorities and needs will continue to reflect ongoing assessments.  So please check back on this site to see the latest updates and connect with us on Facebook.

Current assessments have identified the following needs:

  • Addressing the operational impacts which include repair and/or restoration of the following:
    • A new bunkhouse is needed as the current one was destroyed. This bunkhouse is critical as it houses interns, volunteers, and partner researchers which enhance our capacity to conduct on-the-ground management of our habitats and species and provide programs to visitors and the public.
    • Vehicles are needed as half of our vehicle fleet (five) were flooded and no longer work.  These vehicles supported law enforcement, visitor services, maintenance, and biology programs. 
    • A new boat dock as this too got destroyed.  This boat dock supported our law enforcement and biology programs for the backcountry and remote keys.  Conservation partners also used this boat dock to support larger conservation efforts throughout the Florida Keys.
    • Our maintenance shop received at least four feet of flooding and much of the tools and equipment are now no longer operational.  We will need to replace this for basic operational functionality.
    • Many of our gates and signs were also damaged and will need to be replaced or repaired. 
  • Addressing habitat and species impacts:
    • We are most concerned about the pine rocklands, beach berm, and freshwater wetland habitats. We are currently working with partners to look for funding for this work.  Check back later for specific information on these needs. You can read about some of these habitats on our FB posts.
    • We are concerned about the most vulnerable plants and animals that were impacted by Irma. Check back later for specific information on these needs.  You can read about some of these plants and animals on our FB posts.
    • Download Wetland Salinity Monitoring reports for January 2018, February 2018, March 2018, April 2018
    • We partnered with Texas A&M University to conduct a post-hurricane Lower Keys marsh rabbit population assessment.  Check out the final report.
    • We partnered with Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) to conduct a post-hurricane aerial survey for Great White Herons within the Lower Keys.  Check out the final report.

Learn how you can help!