FWC Asks For Public Input To Protect Florida Burrowing Owls

Jul 7, 2017

It can be hard to avoid lawn mowers, bulldozers and curious dogs if you spend a lot of time in a hole in the ground. 

That's the habitat of the Florida burrowing owl, which as of January is officially classified as a threatened species. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) held a meeting in Lauderhill on Thursday to get public input on how to create new development guidelines to protect the owls in light of their new status.

"They're a really fun and interesting species to watch," said Craig Faulhaber, avian conservation coordinator with the FWC. "They're also becoming increasingly rare. And so that's ... part of the reason why their listing status changed to threatened."

Faulhaber said previous meetings have been attended by environmental consultants, realtors, school representatives and others.

Chris Reiss is part of Project Perch, a group that buries artificial burrows like this one for owl nesting habitat.
Credit Holly Pretsky / WLRN

Chris Reiss is a member of Project Perch, a group that builds artificial burrows for the owls. Reiss, who lives in Broward County, first became concerned about the burrowing owls in 2012 while golfing at Orangebrook Golf Course in Hollywood. 

"The owls have been squeezed and squeezed into smaller and smaller pieces of land that are left ... vacant lots, schools, playing fields, parks, churchyards, cemeteries," he said. "They need a lot of help to survive." 

He came to the meeting equipped with Project Perch's eight-page document of recommendations on owl protection. Some of the suggestions included incentivizing mitigation for landowners, stricter requirements for building around owl nests, and more face-to-face meetings between owl protectors and potential developers. He also hopes to see more durable signs marking protected sites.

The commission is expected to approve official guidelines by early next year. 

If you have input on permitting guidelines for owl habitats, you can email imperiled@myfwc.com.