Tallahassee, Fla. — Governor DeSantis and the cabinet approved the purchase of the 57-acre Fish Island in St. Johns County, a pristine property that represents one of the only natural waterfronts in St. Augustine.
The island was originally slated for development, but strong local advocacy, including Bald Eagle monitoring data, eventually convinced the landowner to sell the property; it will now become a public park. Fish Island is an oasis, so close to urban centers like Jacksonville and St. Augustine and still providing critical habitat for birds and other wildlife. The land was purchased using Florida Forever conservation funds for $6.5 million.
Audubon Florida joined a coalition to advocate for Fish Island as a future park. Working with concerned residents, Matanzas Riverkeeper, Save Fish Island, St. Johns County Audubon, North Florida Land Trust, and others to achieve conservation of the site, stakeholders argued that the benefits realized from the island’s water quality, wildlife, and recreation would far outweigh those expected from development. For public meetings, EagleWatch volunteer Rhonda Lovett shared photographs and details of her visits to the site. Amy Koch, president of St. Johns County Audubon, presented data indicating the nest on site was indeed active.
“The property includes over a half-mile of shoreline along the salt marshes of the Matanzas River and a coastal forest system,” explains Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director of Audubon Florida, “Preserving the uplands along the adjacent stretch of marsh will promote the health of the marsh, retain its ability to clean water, and enhance wildlife benefits for the Matanzas River.”
EagleWatch, one of Audubon's premier community science programs, deploys boots on the ground and eyes in the field to monitor and protect Florida's eagles. With over 1,500 nesting pairs in our state, this team of volunteers spans 45 counties monitoring more than 600 nests. The Fish Island acquisition demonstrates the importance of information collected by community scientists.
Audubon Florida protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.