The St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve and the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve manage the conservation, protection, and restoration of important St. Joseph Bay ecosystems and landscapes in order to protect significant surface-water, coastal, recreational, fish and wildlife resources.
The preserves provide protection for native species habitat and archaeological and historical sites as well as provide opportunities for natural resources-based recreation.
The St. Joseph Bay Preserves are located in one of the most ecologically significant areas in the Southeastern United States and in one of six Hot Spots in the world known for ecological diversity.
The Preserves protect an intact natural coastal landscape with one of the highest concentrations of rare plants in Southeast, including globally imperiled species such as Chapman’s rhododendron, Telephus spurge and Pinewoods aster.
The St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve provides an essential buffer for St. Joseph Bay that helps protect the Bay’s water quality, natural productivity and critical habitats.
The St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve includes, Money Bayou – an unusual tidal creek that flows directly into the Gulf of Mexico instead of an intervening bay or sound, twenty known archaeological and historic sites dating from prehistoric times to the 20th century, one of the most stable and clearly defined dunes/swale systems formed by the sand dunes of ancient-shorelines, rare and endangered reptilian, avian, mammalian and plant species.
St. Joseph Bay was designated as an aquatic preserve in 1969 for the purpose of protecting the bay’s unique and valuable coastal resources. The St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve encompasses 55,000 acres of state-owned sovereign submerged lands below the mean high-water line. One of the most pristine coastal bays in all of Florida, the shallow, crystal clear waters of St. Joseph Bay support a biologically diverse ecosystem. Virtually the entire rim of St. Joseph Bay is bordered by saltmarsh habitat which plays an important role in the food web of the bay. Along with being an aquatic preserve, St. Joseph Bay is also designated as a Class II Shellfish Harvesting Water-body, Outstanding Florida Water-body (OFW), and a Gulf of Mexico Ecological Management Site (GEMS).
St. Joseph Bay Research
The St. Joseph Bay Buffer project was placed on the State of Florida’s Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) acquisition list in 1990. The first parcel was acquired by the State in 1995.
In 1996 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office (FCO) was given management authority.
Since 1995 there has been several additional purchase projects. Currently, 5,019 acres are in public ownership and managed by FCO as the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve.