Frequently Asked Questions

Where did the idea for a trail come from?

A:     Texas created a successful series of coastal birding trails (and later other birding and wildlife trails across the state) that have been immensely popular and have motivated conservation in that state. Florida's Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is modeled after this successful predecessor, and is incorporating more grassroots involvement in the nomination of, maintenance of, and advocacy for sites. The Great Florida Birding Trail officially became the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail in 2011.

What kind of economic impacts do birders and wildlife watchers have?

A:     Birders and wildlife watchers spend money on gas, hotels, souvenirs, meals, books and other travel necessities while they are enjoying their hobby. Unlike traditional tourists, the FEWER capital improvements to an area, the more likely they are to visit, so they generate more economic impact with less capital investment than almost any other demographic group! When you're birding or watching wildlife, be sure to flex your economic muscles to support conservation! In 2006, birders and wildlife watchers generated $5.2 billion for Florida's economy.

Why did the state of Florida organize a birding and wildlife trail?

A:     A growing constituency of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are wildlife viewers, specifically, birders. The Trail serves this constituency by making it easier to find places to enjoy this great hobby. By encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors, the Trail builds support for conservation. Lastly, the Trail brings needed economic motivation to conservation efforts around the state in the form of tourism dollars.

Who’s organizing the Trail?

A:     This is a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency vested with managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. The Florida Department of Transportation helps fund this Trail in large part through the generosity of their ISTEA and TEA-21 grant programs. Other partners, without whom the Trail would not be possible, include: the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the Florida Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon of Florida, Visit Florida, as well as the many agencies, municipalities and landowners that have nominated and manage the sites on the Trail.

I heard my friends talking about a good birding site that’s not on the Trail. Why isn’t it?

A:     There are several reasons why a site may not be on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail:
           
    
(1)  It may not have met the Trail's criteria. The two most common criteria that sites fail are:

(a)     The site's owner does not grant permission for inclusion on the Trail. The site may be privately owned or may not be open for public use. The Trail does not endorse trespassing while birding.
(b)     The site is too sensitive for large-scale birder and wildlife watcher use. If a site has sensitive habitats or species that could suffer significantly from the disturbance inherent to large numbers of people visiting the site, then it will not be included in the Trail. Widlife viewing at these sites would eventually mean there would be no wildlife left to watch.

     
(2)  The site simply may have been overlooked. Unfortunately, the site nomination process is not perfect, and only works well with your support and assistance. If a site was overlooked, please call it to the attention of the Trail Coordinator. Each section will be revisited periodically as funding allows, meaning there will be a future opportunity to include sites we may have missed.
     
(3)  The site may have been opened after the last group of sites was nominated.    

What criteria are used to judge nominated sites?

A:     Each site is evaluated based on a set of criteria. Any accepted site must possess site resiliency, physical and legal access, and maintenance support. It must also possess at least two of the following: ecological significance, birdwatching characteristics or local economic significance. Educational significance may be used to bolster a site's ranking. A diversity of sites are appropriate for the Trail. Sites can be on public or private land; be excellent birding year-round or just in one season; their access can even be restricted to appointments only. Before you exclude a site because it's nontraditional, consult the Trail Coordinator– you may be sitting on a fabulous birding opportunity and a great benefit to your local economy.

Who nominates sites?

A:     You do! Anyone can nominate a site: birders, butterfly watchers, nature photographers, land managers, tourism representatives and government officials. Check the Nominate a Site page for the application form and for more information abou the nomination process.

How does a site get on the Trail?

A:    Sites are nominated for inclusion on the Trail. Subscribe to the Trail newsletter to learn when site nominations are open in your geographic area! After sites are nominated, land managers review the application forms for accuracy and approval. Next, the Trail staff visits each site to gauge its appropriateness according to the acceptance criteria. The Trail's steering committee oversees this process and takes part in the selection of sites.

Will new sites be added to the Trail?

A:     Beginning with the East section in 2007, the nomination period for each section of the trail will be reopened periodically (as funding permits) so that new sites may be included. Due to budget constraints, we have revised our site nomination schedule. Below is our anticipated timeframe:
           
      * Rural and RACEC counties - 2011-2012
      * Statewide - 2014 (tentative)
     

When will highway sign installation be complete?

A:     As of December 2012, highway signs for the original East, West, Panhandle and South trail sites have been installed. Forty-nine sites added to the East Section in 2008 and 23 sites added in rural counties statewide in 2012 do not yet have signs, and no funding source has been identified yet. Some of these new sites have already installed GFBT signs at their entrances.

If I find an error in one of the guides, who should I report it to?

A:     Information for a Trail site may change after the guides are printed, and sometimes mistakes slip through the editing process. Please report all errors in the Trail guides to the Trail Coordinator so that we may update our information. Check the online guides and corresponding guide updates before heading out on your next trip for the most current information.

When did the Trail open?

A: The East Florida Section of the Trail opened in November 2000, the West Florida Section followed in November 2002, the Panhandle Florida Section opened in May 2004, and the South Florida Section opened in January 2006. Forty-nine new locations were added to the East section in 2008, and 23 new locations were added in rural counties statewide in late 2012.

How do I find and use the Trail?

A: Get a guide to the section(s) of your choice one of these five ways:

1) Download a copy of the guides.
2) Request a free copy be mailed to you.
3) Pick one up at any number of nature centers throughout the four Florida sections, or visit one of the gateway sites.

Gateways are hubs for birding trail information and are located at the following sites:

East Florida:
Fort Clinch State Park (Fernandina Beach)
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (Titusville)
Tenoroc Fish Management Area (Lakeland)

West Florida:
Fort De Soto Park (Tierra Verde/St. Petersburg)
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park (Micanopy/Gainesville)

Panhandle Florida:
Big Lagoon State Park (Pensacola)
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (St. Marks/Tallahassee)

South Florida:
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (Boynton Beach)
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (Naples)

4) Order the guidebooks in various formats (hard copy, flash drive, CD) from the Wildlife Foundation of Florida catalog page.

5) Order e-book formatted guides for electronic devices from Amazon.com.

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