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Resource Management

trash corrals picTo help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation.

There are three primary active management strategies employed by the National Key Deer Refuge to maintain, restore, and enhance the natural diversity and integrity of habitats for native plants and animals of the Florida Keys. These management strategies include: habitat management, education and outreach, and law enforcement.


Habitat Management-

Fire

Fire Management at National Key Deer Refuge combines fire suppression, prescribed fire, thinning of overgrown vegetation, and fire ecology to protect local communities and support the Refuge's mission to protect and preserve Key deer and other wildlife resources in the lower Florida Keys. The plans and actions of this program are guided by the Fire Management Plan (FMP) and the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). 

Fire has been increasingly suppressed in the ecosystems it shaped. When a fire-dependent habitat doesn’t burn, the flammable plant material builds up. Over time, this build up can cause dangerous wildfires that overwhelm our ability to put them out.

Today we call these fire-prone developed areas the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). In the WUI, wildfires are suppressed to protect homes, lives, and property. The ability to extinguish wildfires depends on the fire’s size, firefighter availability, fuel levels, weather conditions, and firefighter and public safety.

Like wildlife, wildfire has always been a part of natural areas. Fire Ecology is the study of how fire affects and is affected by ecosystem processes. Every ecosystem experiences differences in fire frequency, intensity, size, and seasonality and these different fire behavior patterns are described as fire regimes. Fire regimes vary over time and space and can be altered by human actions such as housing construction and fire suppression.

Removing exotics

Exotic plant management is an ongoing activity. The control or prevention of invasive plants that otherwise would take over valuable habitat areas is vital to the survival and existence of native plant and wildlife species. 

Along with the vegetation removal strategies, the Refuges monitor native species with special emphasis on threatened and endangered species. As part of the monitoring strategy, the Refuges document changes in species composition over time in response to our management actions, as well as natural disturbances (e.g. hurricanes, flooding), and climate change.


Education and outreach

Education and outreach through visitor services is one of the most powerful management tools our Refuges have for meeting our mission. Working with visitors and residents, including school groups, community groups or individuals who come into our visitor center, the Refuges take the opportunity to educate, inform and even “brag” a little about the work being done at the Refuges. This education has led to a strong volunteer base in our communities. These volunteers continue the work on and off the Refuges and are vital for the mission of the Refuges.

Outreach to the community in helping to "keep wildlife wild" is one of our primary tools in meeting our goals. For example, we have given away over 480 free "trash can corrals" to keep Key deer and other wildlife out of residential garbage. This keeps the wildlife safe and communities clean.


Law Enforcement

Refuge Law enforcement is an instrumental management tool in making sure that the islands remain pristine and that visitors to the Refuges respect the rules that protect wildlife on all Refuge lands.

Page Photo Credits — Trash Can Corrals: USFWS
Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015
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