What We Do
The refuge employs a variety of management techniques including non-native species management, prescribed burning, and mechanical treatment.
Management and Conservation
Wildfire once occurred across vast areas of the Florida landscape including scrub ecosystems found here on the Refuge, helping maintain the health and integrity of Florida’s ecology. In urbanizing areas, fire suppression in natural areas has led to a build up of overgrown scrub vegetation. Highly combustible heavy fuel loads increase the risk of unwanted fire, threatening nearby residents’ property and degrading ecosystem function for wildlife. On the Refuge, past unwanted fires have closed Federal Highway and threatened nearby residential property. In order to reduce the risk of unwanted fire and provide more suitable habitat for wildlife, the Refuge will embark on an integrated approach of mechanically treating scrub habitat and where appropriate, utilize controlled burning. This integrated approach is a proven, safe, and effective way to manage scrub ecosystems.
Non-native Species Management
A non-native species can have the tendency to become invasive which causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Non-native species are harmful to our natural resources (fish, wildlife, plants and overall ecosystem health) because they disrupt natural communities and ecological processes. This causes harm to the native species because they are forced to compete for the same resources (food, water, shelter, etc.). Non-native species typically out compete native species for food and habitat due to the absence of their native predators. Even if the native species are not completely eliminated, the ecosystem often becomes much less diverse. A less diverse ecosystem is more susceptible to further disturbances from diseases and natural disasters. At Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge removing non-native plants and animals is a top priority in order to ensure the native inhabitants thrive.
Approximately 200 acres of the Refuge are fire –dependent habitats. These habitats depend on periodic fire in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Prescribed fire is an important tool used for managing wildlife habitat that mimics natural processes. Our scrub habitat is very resilient to fire and historically have burned in 5 to 40 year intervals. The refuge staff and partners conduct prescribed burns to enhance a variety of habitats and to control invasive and exotic plants.
Trapping Occurs on this Refuge
Trapping is a wildlife management tool used on some national wildlife refuges. Trapping may be used to protect endangered and threatened species or migratory birds or to control certain wildlife populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also views trapping as a legitimate recreational and economic activity when there are harvestable surpluses of fur-bearing mammals. Outside of Alaska, refuges that permit trapping as a recreational use may require trappers to obtain a refuge special use permit. Signs are posted on refuges where trapping occurs. Contact the refuge manager for specific regulations.
Special Use Permits
Certain refuge activities, including, but not limited to scientific research and all commercial activities require a special use permit. Permits must be secured before any special use activity commences on the refuge. Plan ahead and allow for 30 working days to process the permit.
Priority will be given to studies or activities that contribute to the enhancement, protection, use, preservation and management of native wildlife populations and their habitats. The following are some of the things that will be considered in the determination of whether to issue an SUP:
• Will the project benefit the refuge?
• Does the project address an issue of direct management concern to the refuge?
• Does the project address an issue of concern for overall South Florida ecosystem?
• Can the activity/research be conducted elsewhere?
• Is the activity compatible with the objectives of the refuge?
• Will the use require the use of government equipment or personnel?
• Is the applicant(s) qualified?
For more information on the permitting process and to learn if your special project requires a permit please contact the refuge office.
To apply for a special use permit, please use the correct form below:
Commercial Activity Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-C)
For commercial activities such as guided tours, commercial filming (audio, video, and photographic products of a monetary value), or other.
Research and Monitoring Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-R)
For research and monitoring activities by students, universities, or other non-FWS organizations.
General Activities Special Use Permit Application (FWS Form 3-1383-G)
For miscellaneous one-time events, education activities, or other activity not mentioned above.
Our Projects and Research
Scrub Habitat Management
A healthy scrub habitat is home to native plants, shrubs, and tree species like the saw palmetto, scrub palmetto, scrub oak, and sand pine. A few of the wildlife species that live and thrive in a scrub habitat are Florida scrub-jays, gopher tortoises, spotted skunks, opossums, raccoons, bobcats, and potentially eastern indigo snakes. Over a period of time, shrubs and trees have become overgrown on the Refuge and that threatens wildlife with a loss of habitat and increases the risk of unwanted fire. The Refuge is planning management activities that includes trimming and mulching with large equipment to restore scrub habitat that will benefit a variety of plants and wildlife, along with reducing the risk of unwanted wildfire. It may look messy at first, but the plants regrow quickly and the payoff will be well worth it.
An Integrated Approach to Managing Scrub
Wildfire once occurred naturally across the Florida landscape, including in the scrub ecosystems found here on the Refuge. Wildfire helped maintain the health and integrity of Florida’s ecology, but in urban areas, fire suppression in natural areas has led to a buildup of overgrown shrubs and trees. Highly combustible fuels (overgrown shrubs and trees) increase the risk of unwanted fire, threatening nearby residents’ property and degrading ecosystem function for wildlife.
On the Refuge, past unwanted fires have closed Federal Highway and threatened nearby residential property. In order to reduce the risk of unwanted fire and provide more suitable habitat for wildlife, the Refuge is using an integrated approach of mechanically treating scrub habitat and where appropriate, utilizing controlled burning. This integrated approach is a proven, safe, and effective way to manage scrub ecosystems.
- Increases potential for utilizing controlled burns
- Increases forest management options
- Has higher biodiversity
- Rare native plants (like scrub mint)
- More suitable habitat for wildlife
- Increases potential for catastrophic unwanted fires
- Reduces forest management options
- Nuisance plants outcompete desired plants for sunlight
- Less suitable habitat for wildlife
What are mechanical treatments?
Forestry equipment will be used to reduce hazardous fuel loads and allow for better wildlife access and native plant regeneration. Mechanical treatments are often used in situations where overgrown forest conditions hinder our ability to manage forests solely through controlled burning. The equipment used will provide open patches for forest regeneration, which increases forage resources for native wildlife and reduces the threat of unwanted fire.
The remaining mulch will decompose over time putting nutrients back into the soil, and soon after treatment, scrub oaks and other native vegetation will begin to regenerate. It may look messy in the beginning but the payoff to wildlife coupled with reducing the risk of unwanted fire will be well worth it. This process will need to be repeated over time in order for the scrub to be in a state where options such as prescribed burns become available.
Benefits of mechanical treatment
- Reduces the risk of catastrophic unwanted fire threatening nearby residences, power lines and highway infrastructure.
- Creates and maintains scrub habitat for listed species like scrub mint, gopher tortoise, and the Florida scrub jay.
- Allows for future management options