Letter to Gov. Scott and FL wildlife commissioners

Subject: Proposal by FWC to maintain a distance of 100’ from bird islands in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Dear Governor Scott,

I am a professional nature photography workshop leader who conducts instructional tours all over the world. While I am based out of NJ, I conduct two to three workshops a year to the areas where the distance restrictions are being proposed. In my 13 year of running Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours I am extremely puzzled by the 100’ distance for watercraft restrictions that the FWC is proposing near the birding islands known as Robert’s Bay Rookery in Sarasota and Dit-Dot-Dash Rookery in Manatee counties. This distance restriction will severely limit the publics and my clients’ ability to view and photograph the bird life that exists on the islands. I have been running workshops to these islands for the last 6 years and have never witnessed photographer’s approach/encroach on the islands beyond the areas that were marked by the poles put in place by either FWC or Florida Audubon. I currently have two workshops scheduled to that region next year and as you can see on my website: www.roaminwithroman.com I require that my attendees have at least a 400mm telephoto lens to attend this workshop which in layman terms means that we don’t/wont be that close to the island! The 100’ proposed buffer will mean that I will have to put my group into an open boat channel in some instances which in effect, means that I will have to cancel those workshops. I am a small company taking only 4 people but just losing my workshops, will cost your economy roughly $30,000 or more with revenues lost to the local charter captains, hotels, rental car, gas, and meals out at restaurants and that is just in two weeks! As you can imagine, if you multiply that by the number of operators you will lose will have a negative impact on your state.

As a wildlife photographer, I am all for protecting wildlife as that is how I make my living. I am just baffled by the 100’ buffer that FWC along with Florida Audubon are proposing. If you look at Gatorland near Orlando, there is a zip line, with screaming participants, running right over the rookery. I have been visiting it for years and have not seen the numbers or nesting birds drop there with significantly more human impact. The same holds true for the Alligator farm in St. Augustine Florida. Countless people a year walk literally within feet of nesting birds and yet FWC and Audubon have no problem with it. I would say both have a relatively healthy nesting bird population with much more human interaction than the island mentioned above.

Now what is really an eye opener for me and why I am questioning the motives of the FWC and Audubon, is the Venice rookery in Venice Florida. I do believe Florida Audubon has control over it and have been visiting the location for 15 years or more as have countless other photographers and birders. I am not sure who took down the trees around the rookery which was covered in the Brazilian pepper bush (which I know is invasive) but the nest on the rookery seemed to maintain their numbers although it made for a much harder photographic location. A few years ago, someone went onto the nesting island and eradicated the pepperbush and I have photographic evidence as to the number of nests plummeting. I returned last year and almost cried. The number of nests is way down and the island appears to be dying. Who is responsible for that? It wasn’t any photographer, boater, or birder and the only people with access to the island were FWC or Audubon. With the numbers there so drastically down, why are we entrusting the preservation of nesting sites to either when clearly, they aren’t following any rules or guidelines. I’m not a scientist, but I know millions of photographers can provide you the visual proof as to the decline, which has in fact made me cancel any trips or workshops to the area costing the economy of Venice Florida. I wonder how many of the FWC commission have actually visited the proposed sites under consideration for the extended buffer?

I am all for buffers and barriers to protect our wildlife but there needs to be some scientific proof that we are impacting the birds on the islands and have a little common sense when it comes to buffers. As we all know, there will be people who do not follow restrictions or buffers but punishing hard working Floridians and hurting the local economy because of a few bad individuals is just ludicrous. Let some common sense prevail and make sure the advice you are getting from the Florida Audubon and the FWC is scientifically accurate. Photographically, I have only seen the negative impact on nesting sites that the Florida Audubon controls.

I hope you consider the scientific facts along with the economic impact the arbitrary actions of the FWC and Florida Audubon will have on your state and as I have pointed out, their own actions/inactions leave a lot more questions than answers and clearly do not make them the authority in this matter.

Sincerely,

Roman M. Kurywczak

Owner Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours

www.roaminwithroman.com

Please sign the petition here and preserve access for all….not just FL audubon: https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/preserve-access-to-florida-wildlife.html