What We Do

Refuges strive for biological integrity, diversity and environmental health. Much of the management work of refuges is to maintain, enhance or restore intact and self-sustaining habitats.

Fire Management In Florida

In Florida, fire is an important part of the natural ecology of many vegetation communities, such as pinelands and wet prairies. Fire is needed to maintain these communities and prevent the encroachment of invasive shrubs such as wax myrtle and willows. Fire also reduces the hazardous buildup of debris and dead vegetation which can fuel wildfires. Staff from the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast Refuge Complex utilizes fire to maintain healthy native vegetation communities on the refuge. Fire is set under "prescribed" conditions. These prescribed burns are only conducted if the winds, temperature, humidity and moisture levels are within a designated range and the refuge has adequate staff and equipment. 

Habitat Restoration

The hydroperiod on parts of refuge has been significantly shortened by the construction of canals along SR 29 and I-75, allowing for the encroachment of cabbage palms and other invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
. Historically there were perhaps a dozen cabbage palms per acre on the refuge. Today, we see densities over 2,200 per acre. This higher unnatural density of cabbage palms has increased fire intensity, damaging the forest stand.

Invasive Species Management

One of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge’s most important management responsibilities is to control invasive species that threaten its naturally balanced ecosystem. When an invasive species is first introduced into a new area there may be a chance to eradicate it through rapid response action if the species is detected in time. If eradication is not possible then the species may be subject to control and management efforts. Regardless of whether the goal is total eradication or control, there are a suite of options to consider depending upon the species. When making decisions on which options to use, the refuge applies an Integrated Pest Management approach to choose which will be the most environmentally sound yet effective method for reducing the spread and impacts of the invasive species as much as possible. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Integrated Pest Management is a comprehensive, environmentally sensitive approach to managing pests that includes a combination of strategies that pose the least hazard to people, property, and the environment. The simple philosophy is that control will be more effective, and resistance will be less likely to build up, when a range of measures is deployed against a pest.  

Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement is critical to every aspect of wildlife conservation. The mission of the Law Enforcement program is to support the administration of the National Wildlife Refuge System through management and protection of natural, historical, and cultural resources, property, and people on lands and waters of our National Wildlife Refuges.