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Rookery Bay Reserve, Florida

Located at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands on the gulf coast of Florida, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve represents one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America.

The Rookery Bay and Ten Thousand Islands ecosystem is a prime example of a nearly pristine subtropical mangrove forested estuary. Rookery Bay Reserve is located in the West Florida subregion of the West Indian Biogeographic Region.

The mission of the reserve is to provide a basis for informed coastal decisions through land management, restoration, research and education. The reserve works in partnership with local communities to promote coastal stewardship.

Rookery Bay Reserve is located in Collier County, one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. Collier County is also home to a portion of the original Everglades water flowway and many other environmentally sensitive lands, such as mangroves. Over half of the county is in public ownership, managed by either state or federal agencies. Opposing land usesórampant development and large conservation areasócreate unique problems and opportunities for the reserve. Rookery Bay Reserve staff work closely with private developers, regional planners and the water management district to encourage plans that protect freshwater flows to the estuary and maintain important wildlife corridors, while meeting the needs of a growing population.

Agriculture, tourism, fishing, boating and commercial crabbing are other important revenue sources in Collier County, and the undeveloped areas of the reserve and the Aquatic Preserve are heavily used year-round. Acquisition and restoration of watershed and barrier island land surrounding the reserve is a high priority as a means of buffering the estuary from developmental pressure. However, once the land is in public ownership, conflicts over public access and recreational use arise. Balancing the need for estuary research, preserving rare habitats and educating the public through strategic access are never ending management tasks.

Information provided by National Estuarine Research Reserve System
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