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Friends of the Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves is newest Citizen Support Organization

Community engagement protects Tampa Bay’s 380,000 acres of protected lands and waters

SEMINOLE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection has welcomed its 14th citizen support organization (CSO) – Friends of the Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves.

The Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves encompass four aquatic preserves in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties. These four protected areas preserve 380,000 acres of lands and waters, ranging from some of Florida’s most densely developed areas like Pinellas County and Boca Ciega Bay to the relatively undeveloped areas of Terra Ceia and Cockroach Bay. DEP manages these preserves to protect and enhance their ecological integrity and ensure they remain in their natural condition.

“Citizen support organizations are instrumental in helping the department advance its mission to preserve Florida's natural landscape,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. "On behalf of the department, I would like to thank all citizen support organizations statewide for their hard work and unwavering dedication to protecting Florida's environment."

Former legislator Roger Wilson – who sponsored the legislation creating the Boca Ciega Aquatic Preserve in 1969 as the first legislatively designated aquatic preserve – signed the agreement between DEP and the new friends group.

“The establishment of the citizen support organization will create extended opportunities for public participation and education, which is critical for the successful preservation of our natural aquatic resources,” said Roger Wilson, president of Friends of the Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves. “People live in and visit Florida because of our natural resources. Thanks to the help of staff and volunteers, we can safeguard the natural conditions of aquatic preserves for future generations.”

“Our citizen support organizations help expand our resources and ability to ensure the sustainability of our aquatic preserves,” said Alex Reed, director of DEP's Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection. “We look forward to working with the friends group to continue protecting Florida together.”

The Friends of Tampa Bay will work hand in hand with DEP to restore and enhance the aquatic preserves through research, resource management and education while also providing recreational opportunities. DEP values CSOs and their ability to engage surrounding communities in volunteering to maintain Florida's most beautiful natural resources.

In 1975, Florida enacted the Aquatic Preserve Act. The act protects Florida's living waters to ensure they will always be preserved for bird rookeries, fish nurseries, freshwater springs, salt marshes, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests. Today, Florida has 42 aquatic preserves, encompassing almost 2 million acres.

Friends of the Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves website »