Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Habitat Management

Installation of bat house. Credit: USFWS

Installation of bat houses. Credit: USFWS

Refuge staff strive to provide the best possible habitat conditions for many varieties of native wildlife. When Lower Suwannee NWR was established, much of the area was under commercial timber management. Several years ago, efforts were initiated to restore many of these areas to a more natural, pre-disturbed condition. Acres of loblolly pines have been selectively thinned - and in some cases clear-cut - to move toward reforestation to a native longleaf/wiregrass community. Scrub habitat is being restored and improved on high, dry sandy ridge areas where it was originally found.

Wildfires from lightning strikes have always occurred naturally throughout much of the United States and is a critical component of many Florida ecosystems. Many species of wildlife such as the Florida scrub jay depend on fire to sustain their habitat. Today, many of those fires cannot be left to burn unmanaged due to development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is one of many agencies using prescribed fire to mimic natural fires in a controlled manner. Fire lines are established with heavy equipment, trained personnel operate under a specific plan, and fires are intentionally set to help reduce hazardous fuels in the wildland/urban interface, replenish nutrients into the soil, and control vegetation by reducing undesirable species or vegetation heights. The goal is to burn areas that need fire every two to five years to maintain optimum habitat conditions.

At times, water management activities (i.e. controlling water levels with man-made structures such as culverts) create additional seasonal habitat for wading birds such as white ibis, herons, wood storks, and egrets. Due to tidal influence, this activity is not often needed in the Refuge as Mother Nature does the job for us.

 

Prescribed fire. Credit: USFWS
Prescribed fire.
Credit: USFWS
 Habitat Restoration. Credit: USFWS
Habitat Restoration.
Credit: USFWS
 Planting longleaf pines. Credit: USFWS
Planting longleaf pines.
Credit: USFWS

 

Last updated: June 14, 2010