Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP)
Partners Critical to Accelerating Longleaf Ecosystem Restoration in the GCPEP Landscape
By Vernon Compton, The Longleaf Alliance
Prescribed fire is central to three grants that the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP) received to further longleaf ecosystem restoration. The first grant, a Florida State Wildlife Grant titled Wetland Ecosystem Support Team, will fund additional resources necessary to target restoration of embedded wetlands using prescribed fire and other restoration actions. Fire suppression has resulted in wetlands that are now dominated by a woody overstory that prevents the use of these habitats by many of the rare and declining species that depend on them. Focal conservation targets include the Florida bog frog, gopher frog, ornate chorus frog, pine barrens treefrog, reticulated flatwoods salamander, tiger salamander, and the chicken turtle. The GCPEP partners thank the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission State Wildlife Grant program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing the funding that makes this work possible.
GCPEP also received a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Longleaf Stewardship Fund grant titled Partner Collaboration to Restore the Longleaf Ecosystem in the GCPEP Landscape. The grant will support 333 acres of longleaf plantings, 700 acres of longleaf release, and 55,100 acres of prescribed fire on public and private lands. A key indicator species, the gopher tortoise, will benefit through increased efforts centered on habitat improvement and translocations. In addition, training opportunities will include a Longleaf Academy and 10 fire training classes, and 145 landowners will be provided technical assistance and/or training and education opportunities. The GCPEP partners are very appreciative of the funding provided through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund and the public and private partners who support it, including Southern Company, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Defense, and NRCS.
In addition, GCPEP received important funding from the Hunting Heritage Super Fund Project of the Florida and Alabama Chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) in support of habitat management and restoration in the GCPEP landscape. The GCPEP partners are thankful for this support from the NWTF allowing more habitat improvement to occur for the wild turkey and other wildlife found in the longleaf ecosystem.
Prescribed fire in an isolated wetland during an appropriate season for the embedded wetland. Photo by Kelly Jones, Virginia Tech.