Learn About Land Management Reviews

The schedule for the 2017/2018 Land Management Reviews is out. Being a part of Land Management Reviews is an important part of the Florida Native Plant Society mission to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. It is also a very rewarding experience for anyone who has participated in one.

At the Florida Native Plant Society's 37th Annual Conference in May there will be a special field trip where you can Learn About Land Management Reviews. The site for the Thursday morning training will be Lake Kissimmee State Park. Led by Eugene Kelly and Eric Egensteine (Park Manager), this trip is designed to serve as a case study for the state’s Land Management Review process.

Participants will serve as members of a mock Land Management Review team.  We will learn about the process while visiting numerous sites within the park. We will discuss the decision-making that guides natural resource management, habitat restoration, protection of cultural sites and recreational usage.  The underlying question we will seek to answer: Is the park being properly managed to meet the purposes for which it was purchased?  This trip will provide you with a deeper understanding of the challenges of resource management and protection, and prepare you for possible participation in an actual land management review.

If you haven't registered for the FNPS Conference, do it today.  There will be top-notch speakers, workshops and field trips like this one. Do yourself a favor and sign up today and attend the Land Management Review,  Fieldtrip E!!

To understand the importance and impact a Land Management review has, I revived this 2011 Blog by Sue Dingwell that describes one chapter's participation in a Land Management Review in 2011: 

One of the great things that the FNPS does for the state of Florida is to provide knowledgeable people to help with its Land Management Reviews. These reviews are set up to make sure that  conservation lands are being cared for in accordance with plans carefully set up for them. The reviews help ensure that the lands remain functioning ecosystems, and can provide habitats for wildlife, and places for people to use in a variety of recreational ways. The people who do these reviews must spend time studying the plans, know how to identify plants, must travel to the site, and know how to interpret what they see when they get there.

Panther habitat in Wildlife Management Areas
We thought you would be interested to hear about one chapter's experience with participating in land reviews for three different Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) that were specifically acquired to help increase habitat for listed and endangered species such as panther, black bear, sandhill crane, woodstork and gopher tortoise. In addition to helping wildlife, the land provides important ecosystem restoration, silvaculture, (caring for forests in relation to human needs), and recreation.

Thank you to Jenny Evans who wrote the report, and to the Coccoloba Chapter who shared it from their newsletter.

~January  was a busy month for the Coccoloba chapter, which  participated in Land Management Reviews for three Wildlife Management Areas in Hendry County. Both Hendry and Glades Counties are included in the Coccoloba chapter's FNPS membership area. The lands, cooperatively managed by Florida Game and FreshWater Fish Commission (FWC) and the Florida Division of Forestry, were acquired to provide Florida panther habitat. Together the three areas, Spirit of the Wild WMA, Okalocoochee Slough WMA, and Dinner Island WMA, include tens of thousands of acres.

Slough waters feed the Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress
The Spirit of the Wild WMA, the eastern most area, was reviewed by Jenny Evans.  This area, just under 7,500 acres in size, was acquired by the state in 2002. Previous land uses included cattle ranching and vegetable farming, which resulted in many acres of disturbed pasture as well as numerous irrigation ditches and canals being built on the property. In the past few years, many of the ditches and canals have been re-filled, allowing for natural hydrological conditions to return. This property is an important flow-way into the adjoining Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest and Wildlife Management Area, as well as a corridor for local wildlife, including the Florida panther and black bear.

As part of the review process, the review team travelled into the WMA by swamp buggy, led by land manager Jason Huckabee. Management successes include the hydrological restoration along with the reestablishment of the historical fire regime, which benefits the native plant communities, including mesic pine flatwoods, wet prairie, and freshwater marshes. Significant challenges exist on this property as well, including limited resources and the expensive and complex nature of plant community restoration on previous disturbed pastureland.

Crested Caracara needs large open-area country
The Okaloacoochee (OK) Slough, the largest of the areas, was reviewed by Rachel Singletary and Robin Gardner and is located north and west of the Dinner Island WMA. It is an area of 2923 acres in Hendry County and was purchased from Alico Corporation in 1998. The management directive is to “maintain and restore the Okaloacoochee Slough sawgrass marsh and the swamps, hammocks, and pine flatwoods associated with it. Achieving this objective is extremely important to the survival of several declining species of wildlife in South Florida, especially the Florida panther, black bear, wood stork, crested caracara, snail kite, American swallow-tailed kite and sandhill crane.”

Tortoise needs native grasses -photo by wildherps.com
The field trip portion consisted of touring much of the area via swamp buggy led by biologist, Jean McCollom. There is a large area of previous pasture land used for cattle during the past century. Techniques for eradicating the exotic grasses and invasives have included burning, herbicides and mechanical  means. The land is being returned to what was determined to likely have been its native state before the decades of ranching and farming uses. The credit to Jean McCollom was highly emphasized in her apparent dedication of returning the land to its flatwoods, swamp, slough and hammock through very hard work. There is much work still to be done but the management audit showed a lot of  success. A suggestion was made to provide another full time position to assist in carrying out the plan already in place. There is also a need for a hydrology study. It is a lovely area that provides wildlife viewing and hiking as its primary uses for humans which is secondary to providing wildlife with habitat. Across the road is the Okaloacoochee State Forest which is open for hunting portions of the year.

Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area includes 20,000+ acres that still have agriculture uses. Most of these uses are being phased out over a majority of the area. Much of the review participated in by Dick Workman and Karen Doyle dealt with getting cows out of hammocks that are needed by panthers for denning cover.
Panther mothers seek out palmetto thickets for dens

Again, if you haven't registered for the FNPS Conference, do it today.  There will be top-notch speakers, workshops and field trips like this one. Do yourself a favor and sign up today and attend the Land Management Review,  Fieldtrip E!!

And here is the complete schedule for the 2017/2018 Land Management Reviews so you can participate in one that is most important to you.

More  information on the FNPS Land Management Partners Committee is available at http://fnps.org/committee/partners  



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