Resource Management

Our mission is to provide safe habitat to the wildlife of the Refuge islands; therefore, the island interiors are closed to public entry, except for Atsena Otie. Atsena Otie can be entered and its trails and historic cemetery visited. All island beaches are open to the public, except that of Seahorse Key, its beaches and a 100 yard perimeter, which are closed to all public entry during March through June - nesting season for 20,000 birds. Other than human impact, non-native plants, introduced in bird guano, are the only resource management concerns.


For the most part, these Gulf coast islands are maintained extremely well by the forces of nature. Aggressive invasives management is vital for the control of Brazilian pepper (schinus terebinithifolius) brought to the area via bird guano. Erosion is a natural occurrence along the coast, but erosion caused by humans has been detrimental to the Atsena Otie pier. After closure signs were installed and erosion control methods were tested and failed, the dock was closed and developed into an observation point. A picturesque entrance to the island welcomes visitors with a boardwalk over the marsh and a trail that winds its way through sable palms, cedars, and coral bean to the historic cemetery trail. During summer months, the mosquito population rivals the Everglades; occasionally, researchers set out mosquito traps to document species and numbers caught in the traps. 

Management is fortunate enough to have the University of Florida (UF) as an on-the-ground partner. Researchers obtain Special Use Permits for their work and afterward provide the Refuge with annual reports of their findings. UF's Seahorse Key Marine Research Lab partnership also bring benefits through marine research done by professors and their grad students.