A slew of habitat projects joins Partners for Fish and Wildlife and water managers
Water-management districts, first and foremost, manage the supply and quality of water across Florida. But they also, with a healthy assist from the Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) program in Florida, manage wetlands and upland areas considered important for federally threatened and endangered species.
The Partners’ crew works closely with land managers from the St. Johns River Water Management District to improve habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker and Florida scrub-jay. Armed with $51,000 from the Partners program, and $49,000 in direct and in-kind assistance from the water management district, the team has improved lands across northeast Florida the last few years
First up was the Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park in the rapidly developing Orlando area where 68 acres of palmetto and assorted midstory was mowed in spring 2019. Fire lines were prepped and the unit was burned in early 2020. Prescribed fires, every two to three years, will hopefully boost the foraging and cavity-building tendencies of the site’s red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Next up was the Lake Monroe Conservation Area with three miles of lake and river shoreline and sandy uplands providing fine habitat for scrub jays. The uplands were mowed. Fire lines were built. Prescribed fire was laid down earlier this year. A family of scrub jays live alongside the treated area. Annual surveys will detect if – when – the birds use the prepared site again.
And last, but not least, a project at Pellicer Creek Conservation Area seeks to boost habitat for gopher tortoises and other imperiled species. More than seven acres of one-time pine plantation will be transformed into a natural sandhill dominated by longleaf pine and wiregrass. Another seven-acre site will be planted in wiregrass. All should be planted by the end of 2022.
The St. Johns River district owns or manages more than 770,000 acres across an 18-county service area, enough land for the Florida PFW program to successfully undertake a wide range of conservation measures alongside trusted partners.
Chad Allison, Partners for Fish and Wildlife/Coastal Program Coordinator