Matthew Hortman, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) who works on the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area, received the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s 2016 Resource Manager of the Year award at the June 14 meeting of the Governor and Cabinet in Tallahassee. The award recognizes the outstanding dedication and achievements of people managing state lands to conserve their ecological value and biological diversity.
Hortman has fostered innovative programs to help restore natural communities within the Apalachicola River WEA, which encompasses the river and its floodplains from Liberty County south to Apalachicola Bay in Franklin County. The Apalachicola River basin is recognized as one of the nation’s “biodiversity hot spots,” and the WEA supports many wildlife species, including the bald eagle, osprey, pileated woodpecker, red-cockaded woodpecker, Apalachicola kingsnake, Barbour’s map turtle, alligator snapping turtle and Brazilian free-tailed bat.
On the job, Hortman has reintroduced prescribed burning into previously fire-suppressed areas to improve habitat for wildlife, including the frosted flatwoods salamander, a threatened species. He has worked to enhance recreational opportunities for visitors, who can paddle 100 miles on the Apalachicola River WEA Paddling Trail or go fishing, wildlife viewing, hunting, hiking and camping.
“Matt Hortman’s role as an FWC biologist managing and restoring wildlife habitat in the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area is critical to maintaining the diversity of native species there,” said David Johnson, who leads the FWC’s Wildlife and Habitat Management section. “People come to this north Florida river to experience its beauty and the wildlife they can observe while having a great time outdoors.”
This year, the FWC is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Florida’s wildlife management area system. Its nearly 6 million acres are managed for the benefit of fish and wildlife, but also for people who enjoy recreating in some of the wilder and most beautiful places in Florida.
Resident and visitors are encouraged to discover wildlife management areas, such as the Apalachicola River WEA, which are scattered throughout the state. Special WMA anniversary activities and events are scheduled throughout 2017.