Relighting Lighthouse CD Draft

Fresnel Lens Replica


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DRAFT     October 30, 2019


Refuge Name:  St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Location: St. Marks, Wakulla County, Florida

Date Established: October 31, 1931 

Establishing and Acquisition Authorities:

Executive Order 5740 - established St. Marks Migratory Bird Refuge on October 31, 1931 

Presidential Proclamation No. 1982 - established the Executive Closure Area on December 24, 1931

Executive Order 7222 - added acreage on November 1, 1935

Executive Order 7749 - added acreage on November 22, 1937

Presidential Proclamation No. 2264 - December 13, 1937 - expanded Executive Closure Area

Executive Order 7977 - added acreage on September 19, 1938

Presidential Proclamation No. 2416 July 25, 1940 - changed name to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge 

Executive Order 9119 - added acreage on April 1, 1942

Secretary’s Order - modified the Executive Closure Area on October 22, 1953

Secretary’s Order - enlarged and established a new closure order boundary on October 15, 1960.

16 U.S.C. 715d (Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929)

16 U.S.C. 461k-1 (Refuge Recreation Act of 1962)

Refuge Purposes:  These purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System are fundamental to determining the compatibility of proposed uses of the refuge.  The purposes of the refuge are as follows:

“ a refuge and breeding ground for wild animals and birds...@ (Executive Order 5740);

“...for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.”  

(Migratory Bird Conservation Act);

“...suitable for (1) incidental fish and wildlife-oriented recreation development, (2) the protection of natural resources, (3) the conservation of endangered species or threatened species...”  (Refuge Recreation Act);

“…for “conservation, management, and restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans” (National Wildlife System Administration Act); and  

“…certain lands in the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, Florida, which comprise approximately seventeen thousand seven hundred and forty-six acres…as the St. Marks Wilderness.” (Public Law 92-363). 

National Wildlife Refuge System Mission:  The mission of the System, as defined by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, is:

 “to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” (National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended) [16 U.S.C. §668dd-668ee].

Description of Use:

Re-lighting the historic St. Marks Lighthouse

(a)What is the use? Is the use a priority public use?

The use under consideration is the re-lighting of the replica 4th order Fresnel lens in the historic St. Marks Lighthouse, located in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. 

The current St. Marks Lighthouse was constructed in 1842 and was a beacon to mariners 15 miles out in Apalachee Bay. The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1931 for migratory birds, wrapped around the lighthouse property and included the road to the lighthouse constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps a few years later.  In 1960, the light became automated and the last keeper departed. The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Sites on July 31, 1972.  The U.S. Coast Guard maintained the light as a rear range light until 2014.  In 2013, the keeper’s quarters and tower, including the historic 4th order Fresnel lens, were transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from the U.S. Coast Guard. In 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard took down the rear range light during the restoration of the tower and keeper’s quarters, and in 2019, decided not to re-install the light.

Re-lighting the lens is not a wildlife-dependent use and is not a priority public use of the Refuge System under the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. However, re-lighting of the replica lens in the St. Marks  lighthouse supports the priority uses of photography and interpretation and would enhance the visitor experience to the refuge and has potential to increase public visitation, education about historical resources, use and recognition of the refuge. The St. Marks beacon has significant cultural heritage and historic importance to the local community and refuge visitors and would be considered a reference point for local mariners, both recreational and commercial.

(b) Where would the use be conducted? 

The St. Marks lighthouse is located at the terminus of County Rd. 59 (Lighthouse Rd.) in Wakulla County, Florida.  It sits on the east side of the entrance to the St. Marks River. A replica 4th order Fresnel lens has been installed on the historic platform in the lantern room of the lighthouse. The lantern room is not accessible to the public due to safety concerns.

(c)  When would the use be conducted? 

The St. Marks light would automatically turn on and off using a photo cell detector every night.  The use would re-create the historic beacon, with a white, 100-watt light, flashing every 4 seconds and the refuge would apply to establish it as a Private Aid to Navigation.  Approved protocols would be initiated to monitor bird interactions with the beacon during peak bird migrations in the fall and spring for the first year. The periods proposed to monitor the light are August 15- October 31 for fall migration; and March 1 – May 1 for spring migration (Personal Communication 1 and 2).

(d)  How would the use be conducted?  

The approved light instrument has been designed specifically for the intensity, direction and duration necessary to recreate the historic light at the St. Marks Lighthouse. Refuge staff will be trained in the appropriate use and maintenance of the light. All instruments and equipment would be regularly inspected with maintenance and repair conducted as needed. If approved as a Private Aid to Navigation, the U.S. Coast Guard would inspect every 3 years.

(e)  Why is the use being proposed?  

The Service supports incorporating Refuge land history into cultural interpretation and education programs on Refuge lands. This use supports Dept. of Interior Mission Area 3: Expanding Outdoor Recreation and Access, Goal #2 Enhance public satisfaction at DOI sites, Strategy #1: Enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of our natural and cultural heritage. The re-lighting of the St. Marks light beacon is included under administration, resource protection, public use, and partnership goals and objectives throughout St. Marks NWR’s 2007 Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) addressing environmental education, interpretation, and photography as an integral part of the historic lighthouse.

 Re-lighting the light is significant to the local communities, including residents, businesses and tourism organizations as the lighthouse beacon symbolizes Wakulla County and its maritime heritage. 

Availability of Resources:  The cost of allowing this use on the refuge does not require additional staff at this time. To monitor wildlife impacts when the beacon is on will require coordination with staff and volunteers for the 135-day period that corresponds with peak bird migration. Appropriate monitoring protocols would be designed and the specific times and frequency would be established after the Compatibility Determination is approved.   The beacon operation costs would be within the operating budget, personnel time associated with administration, law enforcement, management, maintenance of parking areas, signage, and monitoring of site for impacts of public use.

Estimate – two hours/monitoring visit for a maximum of 135 days equals 270 hours.

Resources involved in the administration and management of the use

Personnel time associated with administration and maintenance are involved. Existing staffing and funding are currently adequate to support these activities. Refuge staff will direct maintenance, administration, and management of the light in the lighthouse tower. 

Special equipment, facilities, or improvements necessary to support the use: 

The USFWS will be required to provide power and maintenance to the light.

Maintenance costs: The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge will be responsible for the maintenance of the St. Marks Lighthouse and the light.

Monitoring costs: Volunteers and partners will be monitoring the impacts of the St. Marks light during migration to determine negative effects on wildlife, especially migratory birds, as a result of this use. Monitoring protocols will be developed with Migratory Bird and Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) staff assistance.

Off-setting Revenues: Access into the keeper’s quarters’ interpretive site includes a fee of $2/person - 12 years or older. For the first 10 months of operation September 2018- June 2019, over 2,121 guests toured the facility for an income of $3,652 in fees and $733 in donations.

Anticipated Impacts of Use:  

Short-term Impacts:

The effect of lighthouses on birds has been long documented (Allen 1880) and effects on amphibians, insects, and pollinators more recently studied (Brown et al. 2007, Buchanan 2002, Eisenbeis et al. 2009, Frank 1998). Migrating birds and fledglings may become disoriented or attracted to and “trapped in” artificial lights, particularly petrels and shearwaters (Aubrecht et al. 2010) and other procellariform birds (Reed et al. 1985). Birds in the beam of light are more vulnerable to collision with other birds or structures, exhaustion, and a secondary threat of predation (Eisenbeis et al. 2009). St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge lies in an important secondary migration flyway for many avian species. 

Other studies found lighthouses today to be a negligible source of avian mortality (Avery 1979). Inconsistencies in avian responses to lighting structures may be related to characteristics of individual lamps, such as wavelength, or intensity (Gauthreaux and Belser 2006). In one study in Ontario, a narrower and dimmer light reduced avian mortality (Jones and Francis 2003). Steady-burning lights are consistently (although not exclusively) associated with higher avian mortality in comparison studies (Jones and Francis 2003, Longcore and Gauthreaux 2008, Verheijen 1985) and colored lights are associated with lower mortality than white lights (Longcore et al. 2018, Muster et al. 2009). Once the St. Marks’ beacon is re-lit, staff will monitor for short-term impacts by wildlife previously unexposed to the light.  The light was operational for the history of the refuge until the fall of 2014. No avian mortality events were noted during 171 years, including the past 35 years (Personal Communication 1 and 2). 

Long-term Impacts: 

Repeated short-term effects of attraction or disorientation of migrating birds are unlikely to affect a species at a population level, but could result in increased mortality. Volunteers and partners will monitor for long-term impacts to wildlife, with a focus on the times of the year when peak migration occurs. 

Cumulative Impacts: No cumulative impacts are anticipated from this use; however, monitoring of animals, and their habitats will take place and re-evaluation of this use will take place if negative impacts are noted. 

Public Review Comment:  In accordance with Service guidelines, public involvement is an important factor in the development of CDs for the refuge.  A 30-day public review and comment period provides the public the opportunity to comment on the proposal.  Opportunities to comment would be advertised at the administrative office of the Refuge, in local newspapers, press releases, and on the refuge’s and Friends’ website and Facebook pages.

Determination (check one below):

___ Use is Not Compatible

 X   Use is Compatible with Following Stipulations


Stipulations Necessary to Ensure Compatibility: 

A combination of the following mitigation measures would be considered to reduce the duration, intensity, or extent of the potential negative effects of the light on bird interactions at the St. Marks’s light. Additionally, as issues may arise with the light, we intend to adapt and modify our measures to avoid negative effects on wildlife by the lighting events:

1.These measures will be evaluated and if necessary, modified and improved after one year and every year thereafter based on information gathered as a result of monitoring.

2.Height of the light room: the St. Marks light is 88 feet ASL and sits on the edge of Apalachee Bay surrounded by acres of open marsh. Literature states only 1-15% of migrants fly below 300’ during clear weather (Mabee and Cooper 2004).  

3.Alter the intensity and nature of the beam (Jones, J. and C.M. Francis. 2003. The effects of light characteristics on avian mortality at lighthouses. Journal of Avian Biology 34:328-333) – reduce the light intensity to the lowest level needed, approximately a 100-watt bulb.

4.Flashing or rotating lights are less likely to attract wildlife (Jones, J. and C.M. Francis. 2003. The effects of light characteristics on avian mortality at lighthouses. Journal of Avian Biology 34:328-333). The St. Marks light will mimic the historical four-second flash. 

5.The BirdCast, Live Migration  website would serve as a monitoring of bird activity resource.

6.The area around the lighthouse would be monitored when the light is lit if during high migration activity.  If bird strikes occur, these would be documented and reported to the St. Marks NWR manager.


There is no documentation of bird strikes at the St. Marks Lighthouse. As a historic light beacon there is strong public support to re-light it.  Monitoring would be conducted to ensure this use remains compatible. If negative effects to wildlife are noted, a re-evaluation would be conducted and actions implemented to avoid or minimize these effects. 


After fully considering the impacts of this activity, it is the Refuge’s determination that this use would not materially interfere with or detract from the purposes of the Refuge(s) or the mission of the Refuge System. These activities would remain compatible with the implementation of the listed stipulations.


This Compatibility Determination is based on sound professional judgement and the best available science.

This use complies with Department of the Interior policy as follows:

Department of the Interior Policy 516 DM 8.5 B (7) Categorical Exclusions: Minor changes in the amounts or types of public use on Service or State-managed lands, in accordance with existing regulations, management plans, and procedures. 

NEPA Compliance for Refuge Use Description:

     X      Categorical Exclusion without Environmental Action Statement

_______Categorical Exclusion and Environmental Action Statement

_______Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact

_______Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision


Mandatory 10-year Re-evaluation Date:  September 2029



Allen JA. 1880. Destruction of birds by light-houses. Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club 5: 131-137.

Aubrecht, C., Elvidge, C., Ziskin, D., Rodrigues, P. and Gil, A., 2010. Observing stress of artificial night lighting on marine ecosystems-a remote sensing application study.

Avery, M.L., P.F. Springer, and N.S. Dailey. 1980. Avian mortality at man-made structures: an annotated bibliography (revised). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Biological Services Program, National Power Plant Team, FWS/OBS-80/54, pp. 152.

Baldwin, D.H. 1965. Enquiry into the mass mortality of nocturnal migrants in Ontario. Final report. Ont. Nat. 3:3-11.

Banks, R.C. 1979. Human-related mortality of birds in the United States. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Scientific Report. – Wildlife 215:1-16.

Brown, H., S. Caputo, E.J. McAdams, M. Fowle, G. Phillips, C. Dewitt, and Y. Gelb. 2007. Bird-Safe Building Guidelines. New York Audubon Society, Inc. 59 pp. Accessed May 2014 at:

Buchanan, B.W. 2002. Observed and potential effects of artificial light on the behavior, ecology, and evolution of nocturnal frogs. In C. Rich and T. Longcore (eds.). Proceedings of the Urban Wildlands Group, Ecological consequences of artificial night lighting, Los Angeles, California February 23-24, 2002.

Dolbeer, Richard A., and Barnes, William J.  2017.  Positive bias in bird strikes to engines on left side of aircraft. Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 11( 1), Article 7. 


Eisenbeis, G., Hänel, A., McDonnell, M., Hahs, A. and Breuste, J., 2009. Light pollution and the impact of artificial night lighting on insects. Ecology of cities and towns: a comparative approach Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA, pp.243-263. 

Frank, K. 1988. Impact of outdoor lighting on moths. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 42: 63-93. 

Gauthreaux, S.A.Jr.; Belser, C.G. 2006. Effects of artificial night lighting on migrating birds. in: Rich, C; Longcore, T (eds.). Ecological consequences of artificial night lighting. Island Press, Washington, DC., US., pp. 67-93. 

Jones, J. and C.M. Francis. 2003. The effects of light characteristics on avian mortality at lighthouses. Journal of Avian Biology 34:328-333. 

Longcore, T., Rich, C. and S.A. Gauthreaux. 2008. Height, guy wires, and steady-burning lights increase hazard of communication towers to nocturnal migrants: a review and meta-analysis. The Auk 125:486-493.

Longcore, T., A. Rodriguez, B. Witherington, J.F. Penniman, L. Herf, M. Herf. 2018. Rapid assessment of lamp spectrum to quantify ecological effects of light at night. LED Professional.

Longcore T., and C. Rich. 2017. Artificial Night Lighting and Protected Lands: Ecological Effects and Management Approaches (Revised August 2017). Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/NSNS/NRR – 2017-1493.  Fort Collins, Colorado: National Park Service. 1-51 p.

Mabee, T.J., and B.A. Cooper. 2004. Nocturnal bird migration in northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. Northwestern Naturalist : 39-47.

Muster, C.J.M., D.J. Snelder, and P. Vos. 2009. The effects of coloured light on nature. Department of Conservation Biology. CML-CB Report 182. Institute of Environmental Sciences. Leiden University.

Personal Communication 1, with Dan Frisk, North Florida Refuges Project Leader and Refuge Manager Terry Peacock: 1) Don Morrow, refuge birder for 35 years at St. Marks NWR, conversation on July 25, 2019 and email dated June 10, 2019 from same,

Personal Communication 2, email from Dr. Jim Cavanaugh,, supporting peak migration times and no evidence of bird mortality. Dr. Cavanaugh has birded in the refuge for 50 years.

Reed, J.R., Sincock, J.L. and Hailman, J.P., 1985. Light attraction in endangered procellariiform birds: reduction by shielding upward radiation. The Auk, 102(2), pp.377-383.

Rodríguez, A., Holmes, N.D., Ryan, P.G., Wilson, K.J., Faulquier, L., Murillo, Y., Raine, A.F., Penniman, J.F., Neves, V., Rodríguez, B. and Negro, J.J., 2017. Seabird mortality induced by land‐based artificial lights. Conservation Biology, 31(5), pp.986-1001. 

Werfelman, Linda; 12 December 12 2017. Red Light, Green Light. Flight Safety Foundation (Wildlife Issues, Threat Analysis),

Verheijen, F. J. 1985. Photopollution: artificial light optic spatial control systems fail to cope with. Incidents, causations, remedies. Experimental Biology 44: 1 - 18.