Ensure user experiences are sustainable and consistent with natural and cultural resource protection for the
benefit of existing and future generations relative to public use patterns.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR) provides important opportunities for compatible
recreational use such as hiking, boating, camping and fishing that in turn provide significant economic benefits
to the local community. The unprecedented rate of population growth experienced in Collier County correlates with
a significant increase in public use of RBNERR resources. The intensity of public beach and inshore waters use
within specific areas such as Keewaydin Island and Cape Romano has resulted in a significant increase in the
frequency of incompatible public use and related damage to wildlife and essential habitats. These impacts also
degrade the wilderness experience that many visitors come to RBNERR to enjoy.
Staff and volunteers continue to note periodic boat-related disturbances at rookeries in RBNERR; although the
frequency and intensity of disturbances at the ABC Islands bird rookery has diminished significantly as a result
of the establishment of an enforced No Entry Critical Wildlife Area. Boat related deaths of manatees continue
to be a problem within RBNERR waters, as a result of impacts with boat hulls traveling at high speed, or as a
result of injuries sustained from engine propellers. RBNERR staff also report increasing evidence of long-term
damage to essential submerged habitats such as seagrass beds as a result of prop dredging from boats operating
in the shallow waters of RBNERR.
Boating access and recreational use of barrier island beaches within RBNERR, such as Keewaydin Island and Cape
Romano, represents a key economic contribution to the local community. Camping activity by boaters is increasing,
including the frequency, number, and duration of overnight campers utilizing beach sites within RBNERR. Examples
of incompatible use associated with intensive beach use by boaters/campers include loss of wildlife from
unleashed dogs, destruction of wetlands and beach habitats for campfires, deposition of human waste and trash,
and increasing evidence of human conflicts from too many people targeting the same sites for camping or
Upland and wetland habitats show continuing evidence of off-road vehicle use, which is prohibited within RBNERR
due to the potential for causing ruts and alterations to freshwater sheetflow. Upland areas of RBNERR
periodically are used for the illegal dumping of trash, and more recently for paint ball activities involving the
documented destruction of forested habitats. Incompatible consumptive uses of RBNERR by the public, such as
illegal hunting/poaching, plant and live shell collecting, and removal of artifacts, can result in serious
cumulative negative impacts to RBNERR's natural and cultural resources.