Special Reports

County experts list Manatee’s ecological treasures

MANATEE — A lush, wild stretch of shoreline graces Manatee County’s new Robinson Preserve, a vibrant habitat for plants and animals and refreshing recreational spot for the weary public.

The 487-acre preserve on the western edge of Bradenton, dedicated just two years ago, has become quite popular, attracting 30,000 nature lovers a month this spring, county officials estimate.

Now, with a massive Gulf oil spill threatening waterways and shorelines, county experts have had to choose which ecological treasures should get the highest priority for protection if the spill should wash up here.

They’re recommending that Robinson Preserve make the cut, designated among the county’s most important sites.

Through a unified joint command in St. Petersburg led by the U.S. Coast Guard, officials are charged with protecting such areas. Today, we take a look at why they’ve been designated with three diamonds — signifying the highest degree of importance — and what measures might be attempted, based on documents from the Manatee County Department of Natural Resources. Should oil come ashore here, these snapshots could change drastically.

Robinson Preserve

Extensive mangrove, sea grass and tidal flats and threatened species, including wading birds, brown pelican, roseate spoonbill, along with shellfish harvesting. Protective measures might be 5,600 feet of hard boom.

Perico Bayou

With extensive mangrove, sea grass beds and tidal flats, its threatened species include the manatee, sea turtle, bald eagle, roseate spoonbill and brown pelican; in the area is an Audubon Sanctuary and a Seagrass Restoration Area. About 200 feet of harbor boom would be required to seal off the bayou.

Emerson Point

Habitat to be protected includes bird nesting, mangrove growth and sea grass; species threatened includes sea turtle, manatee and brown pelican; protection measures would be 4,100 feet of hard boom.

Snead Island

Wildlife resources to be protected include bird nesting areas and shellfish. The area is characterized by heavy mangrove growth, sea grass beds, and a bird rookery. Threatened species: sea turtle, manatee and brown pelican. Protection strategy: Boom off the mouth of Terra Ceia Bay with approximately 3,000 feet of harbor boom.

Snead Island Cut

Resources include an Audubon sanctuary, sea grass restoration area, critical nesting, shellfish harvesting; threatened species include manatee, bald eagle, roseate spoonbill, brown pelican. Protection strategy: 200 feet of harbor boom to see of Snead Island Cut.

DeSoto National Memorial

Habitat includes mangrove, salt marsh and sea grass areas harboring shellfish, fisheries and the brown pelican.

Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge

Area around Longboat Pass

n Leffis Key, Jewfish Key, Sister Keys, Cortez Key Rookery: Wildlife to be protected includes bird roosting and reeding areas, Coquina Beach Park, brown pelican; threatened species include sea turtle, snowy plover, brown pelican, wading birds and red knots. Rich habitat of mangrove, salt marsh, sea grass, tidal flats, oyster beds and bars. Protection suggestions: Deflect oil to Coquina Beach and outside of Longboat Key, coordinate with sea turtle and shore bird seasons.

Terra Ceia Bay

n Near U.S. 19 Bridge: Wildlife resources include an Audubon sanctuary, sea grass restoration area, roseate spoonbill, brown pelican, shellfish and fisheries; threatened species include manatee, sea turtle, bald eagle, roseate spoonbill, brown pelican; habitat to be protected: extensive mangrove, sea grass, tidal flats. Protection strategy might be using 250 feet of harbor boom to isolate the portion of Terra Ceia Bay on the east side of U.S. 19 Bridge.

n Miguel Bay: Wildlife resources to be protected include an Audubon sanctuary, sea grass restoration area, brown pelican roseate spoonbill, oyster catcher, shore bird nesting, fisheries, shellfish; habitat to be protected includes extensive mangrove, sea grass, tidal flats. Suggested protection: approximately 200 feet of harbor boom is required to seal off Miguel Bay.

n Bishop Harbor: With extensive mangrove, sea grass and tidal flats, threatened species include the manatee, sea turtle, brown pelican, bald eagle and roseate spoonbill. Also needing protection are fisheries and shellfish harvesting areas, other bird life, plus dolphin, manatee, osprey and shark.

Palma Sola Bay

Wildlife to be protected includes wading bird roosting and feeding areas, rookeries, brown pelican; threatened species are manatee, brown pelican, roseate spoonbill; habitat includes mangrove, salt marsh, sea grass, tidal flats, oyster beds; suggested protection: block mouth of Palma Sola Bay.

Mouth of Braden River

Wildlife to be protected includes woodstork nesting, bird sanctuary, brown pelican; threatened species, woodstork, brown pelican; habitat to be protected includes mangroves, salt marshes, tidal flats, bird rookery, roosting; protection strategy: block off river mouth.

Port Manatee Spoil Island

Wildlife to be protected includes a bird nesting area, along with least tern, killdeer, wilson’s plover, willet and American oyster catcher; threatened species include American oyster catcher. Protection strategy is to advise aircraft of a minimum altitude of 500 feet over or near nesting sites, no landing at the site.

Florida SERF Research Facility

It is owned by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and is an aquaculture facility.

Related stories from Bradenton Herald

  Comments