Ocala Longleaf Pine Local Implementation Team (OLIT): Planning for the Future in the Midst of a Dry Spell

Ocala Longleaf Pine Local Implementation Team (OLIT): Planning for the Future in the Midst of a Dry Spell

By Cheryl Millett, The Nature Conservancy

Through a partnership with the National Forest Foundation, we were able to conduct mechanical fuel reduction of sand pine and hardwood brush on 245 acres to expand red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) habitat. To be considered high-quality RCW habitat, cavity trees must be in open pine stands with little or no hardwood mid-story. Hardwood encroachment from fire suppression is a well-known cause of nest abandonment. This work will allow safe application of controlled burning and extend RCW habitat from the existing core in Salt Springs on the Ocala National Forest.

The Northeast Ecosystem Restoration Team run by Wildland Restoration International conducted an additional 28.8 total acres of longleaf management, including 3.05 acres of hardwood thinning and 25.75 acres of longleaf planting. Controlled burning was on hold during the very active wildfire season in the dry, windy Florida spring.

The Florida Forest Service is on the cusp of announcing the next private landowner incentive program for longleaf restoration and management. Meanwhile, we’re working on the conservation plan that will guide work into the future, with The Nature Conservancy continuing to coordinate the Ocala LIT through a planned transition to Alachua Conservation Trust in 2018.

Image 1: Mechanical removal of sand pine and hardwoods on Ocala National Forest will allow for needed controlled burning to restore and expand red-cockaded woodpecker habitat.  Photo by Cheryl Millett.