The Amy H Remley Foundation  
   
     
 

The following is taken from www.floridastateparks.org.

Florida State Park Resource Management Philosophy

The Florida State Parks system was created in 1935 to preserve representative portions of the state's original natural lands for all time, and to make them accessible for public enjoyment and recreation. The state park system has grown to encompass over 600,000 acres of diverse conservation lands – a substantial and irreplaceable part of the public's natural heritage. However, simply acquiring land does not ensure preservation of its resources. The lands must be actively managed to retain the values for which they were acquired.
The health of Florida's ecosystems depends on dynamic natural processes associated with fire, hydrology, and a delicate ecological balance between native species. Our resource management goal is to restore and maintain the original landscapes of Florida State Parks by reestablishing these processes. In this way we insure that citizens and visitors experience healthy old–growth forests, wildflower–blanketed prairies, free–flowing springs, and an abundance of diverse native wildlife in The Real Florida.
Natural resource management of the uplands in Florida State Park system involves four major activities: prescribed burning, invasive exotic species control, hydrological restoration, and other kinds of habitat restoration. Most of this work is done by park staff as a part of their day to day activities, which also include the many other aspects of providing recreational facilities and opportunities to about 17 million park visitors annually.

Prescribed Burning

The Florida Park Service manages more than 300,000 acres that are in "fire–dependant" natural communities requiring prescribed burning on different fire–return intervals (ranging from 2 to 50 years).

Historical Role of Wildland Fire in Florida
The critical role that fire plays in maintaining many of the earth's ecosystems is now widely recognized. Largely because more lightning strikes occur per square mile in Florida than any other place in North America, fire is one of the primary natural forces under which Florida's land ecosystems have evolved. Before there were roads, canals, modern agriculture, or big cities, lightning–set fires frequently swept almost unimpeded across Florida's landscape. Over thousands of years, many natural habitats have evolved under the influence of periodic fire and are dependent on fire today.

Restoration and maintenance of such fire–dependent habitats now requires prescribed burning – the mimicking of lightning fires by carefully introducing fire according to detailed control plans called "prescriptions." On average, more than 33,000 acres of state park lands are burned each year, either through prescribed burning, naturally occurring fires, or a combination of both.

Maintaining Our Natural and Cultural Heritage
As the human population of the state has grown and fire has been increasingly excluded from natural lands, fire–dependent habitats have drastically declined. As a result, many unique plants and animals needing these habitats are disappearing.

The open piney woods, ever–blooming prairies, and aromatic scrubs of Florida and the unique species they support are an irreplaceable part of Florida's natural and cultural heritage. They not only provide a source of enjoyment and inspiration, but continue to play a vital role in shaping the character and spirit of the people of Florida. If our native fire–dependent habitats and species were lost, we would not only lose a critical link to our past, but our quality of life would be diminished.

Biodiversity Conservation
Of Florida's 44 land–based natural community types, 17 depend on periodic fire for their continued existence and 16 more benefit from an occasional fire. Without fire, applied at appropriate frequencies and intensities, many of Florida's fire–dependent natural communities and the species that depend on them would gradually disappear – forever.

With prolonged fire exclusion, fire–resistant hardwood species begin to invade and dominate many fire–dependent communities. Over time, the entire structure and species composition of such areas change, often with much less species diversity.

Rare Species Conservation
Many of Florida's rare and endangered species of animals and plants are dependent on periodic fire for their continued existence. Without periodic fire, species such as the Florida scrub jay, Sherman's fox squirrel, red–cockaded woodpecker, and white–top pitcher–plant would disappear forever.

Increased Wildlife Abundance
Prescribed burning of natural lands is known to increase abundance and health of many wildlife species, including native game species such as deer, turkey, and quail.

Hazard Reduction
Fire–dependent natural communities contain pyrogenic vegetation. In other words, species produce vegetation that promotes the spread of fire. Over time these fuels gradually accumulate, making the occurrence of fire increasingly likely. So for much of Florida's wildlands, it is not a question of whether an area will burn or not, but WHEN.

With prolonged fire exclusion, fuel levels can become dangerously high. Under such conditions, a single lightning strike or an ember from a backyard grill can cause a raging wildfire. With prescribed burning, we are able to reduce fuel levels in natural communities under controlled conditions.

Prescribed Burning In Your State Parks

Invasive Exotic Species Control

The ability of humans to transport plants and animals around the world has never been greater. This ability is a double–edge sword – allowing ready access to many useful and beautiful plants and animals from around the world, but also occasionally resulting in unruly and unwanted guests.

Invasive exotic species are now recognized to not only be a major agricultural problem (e.g., Mediterranean fruit fly and Argentine fire ant), but are now seen as major factors worldwide in degradation of the environment. Invasion and disruption of native habitats by certain rapidly spreading non–native plant species is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to maintaining healthy and diverse ecosystems in Florida.

What Makes a Species Invasive?
When a species is moved into a region in which it is not native, it is often released from the natural controls of its homeland – such as diseases and predatory insects. With few or no natural controls, some exotic species are able to out–compete, displace, or destroy native species and their habitats.

Florida, a Land in Balance
Florida's native species have coexisted for thousands of years, gradually developing a relationship known as "the balance of nature." Humans have introduced many exotic plant and animal species to Florida, some of which are heavily invading our remaining natural habitats. In the worst cases, invasive exotic plants displace diverse native communities and leave impenetrable single–species stands, and exotic animals impact vast areas of diverse native groundcover and directly consume rare native species. The worst invasive exotic plants, about 125 species, are tracked and listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (EPPC) . The most troublesome include Brazilian pepper, Australian pine, Chinese tallow, cogon grass, air–potato, Japanese climbing fern, Old World Climbing fern, and hydrilla. The most troublesome animal by far is the feral hog (from Eurasia).

Restoring Balance
If left unchecked, invasive exotic plants and animals would eventually completely alter the character, productivity, and conservation values of the natural areas in Florida's State Parks. The Florida Park Service actively removes invasive exotic species from state parks, with priority being given to those causing the most ecological damage. In the case of plants, most removal involves selectively applying herbicides that are carefully chosen to have very low toxicity to wildlife and humans, and very short environmental persistence. Animals are removed according to established guidelines that insure humane treatment.

Learn more about invasive species by visiting the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.

Hydrological Restoration

For most of its history as a state, much of Florida was thought to have too much water. In earlier times, citizens were anxious to modify nature on a grand scale by draining the state's "swamps and overflowed lands, " channelizing streams and rivers, and holding back floodwaters with major engineering projects.

Today, with over 50% of the original wetlands drained, lakes and springs often polluted and drying up, and frequent critical water shortages, the finite nature of Florida's freshwater resources is clear. Likewise, the values of intact functioning natural systems for water resource conservation, native wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation are now widely recognized.

A Land Shaped by Water
Most of Florida's native habitats are precisely adapted to natural drainage patterns and seasonal water fluctuations. Depth to water table and the timing and length of flooding frequently determine what type of natural community occurs on a site. Even minor changes to natural hydrology can result in the loss of plant and animal species from a site.

It is now recognized that ditches, berms, roads, stabilized lake levels, and excessive water use can have severe and unwanted impacts on natural lands by altering both the amount of water present and the timing of its availability.

Restoring Hydrology
The Florida Park Service is charge by statute to restore, maintain, and protect the original character of representative portions of the state's natural lands. However, it is now realized that the natural hydrology of many state parks is impaired to some degree. This is often especially the case on park lands recently acquired for conservation and recreation. To the extent possible, we are actively restoring the original hydrology in state parks. We do this primarily by filling or plugging ditches, removing obstructions to surface water "sheet flow," installing culverts under roads, and installing water control structures to manage water levels.

Habitat Restoration

Habitat restoration is a complex process often involving a combination of several activities, often including the removal of invading species (loblolly pines, slash pines, pasture grass), reintroducing missing species (wiregrass, longleaf pine), beach rebuilding (sand renourishment and planting sea oats and other beach species), as well as the other management techniques discussed in the sections above.

Dedicated park staff also locate, identify, and manage endangered and threatened species such as scrub jays, gopher tortoises, sea turtles, and beach mice. Such activities are an integral part of sensitive development and providing public access while maintaining the delicate ecological balance.

Oversight, consultation and coordination for the above Natural Resource Management activities is provided by the Bureau Of Natural And Cultural Resources. For more information, contact the bureau office in Tallahassee. Due to disruption of natural processes, invasions by nonnative species, and large–scale disturbances associated with past land uses, many of the natural lands now within Florida State Park boundaries are in an impaired condition. We are identifying restoration needs and costs for these lands, and estimate the current statewide restoration needs to be at least $60 million.

News and Views
News Items

November 30, 2013
On environment, shortsightedness costs Florida big.
Scott Maxwell, Taking Names.
read more

October 9, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2013.
read more

September 25, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
The Potential for Fuel Cell Prime Power in Japan.
read more

August 1, 2013
Duke Energy to cancel proposed Levy County nuclear plant.
read more

May 22, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
Electrolysers for Renewable Energy Efficiency.
read more

March 13, 2013
Beyond Electricity: Using Renewables Effectively.
read more

September 24, 2012
Sewer Systems Legal Filing.
read more

February 1, 2012
Fuel Cell Today update.
read more

January 13, 2012
Sewer Agenda.
read more

December 23, 2011
Scientist: Water account overdrawn.
read more

Novemver 14, 2011
Submission to the Citrus County Commissioner, 14 November, 2011.
read more