NWTF Director of Conservation Operations Brian Zielinski strongly believes public land management practices within the Sunshine State have been taken to a whole new level. For good reason, the Florida State Chapter of the NWTF and partners such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have teamed to create a cost-share program that dramatically enhances habitat improvement and management throughout the entire state. The program focuses primarily on restoring and improving public lands through essential projects, such as creating wildlife openings, conducting prescribed fires, making timber stand improvements and controlling invasive or exotic weeds.
According to Zielinski, partnerships like these are desperately needed, especially during challenging economic periods when most land management agencies are dealing with harmful budget cuts.
“The Florida State NWTF Chapter allocated $40,000 of Super Fund money for the program in 2014-15,” Zielinski said. “When you consider the FWC contribution of $341,118 and $527,619 in contributions from other partners, you’re looking at a total program value of $908,737. Impressive figures like these clearly reflect the dedication and commitment to conservation in the Sunshine State.”
These dollars will help conserve and manage 45,485 acres of wildlife habitat across the state. With that being said, how will the money be spent? NWTF Regional Biologist Ricky Lackey explains that all habitat projects have to address the specific needs of any given area.
“We are constantly working with our partners around the state to identify public land locations that need attention,” Lackey said. “The work on Big Shoals State Forest Wildlife Management Area is a great example of how these projects work.”
The Big Shoals Project is a multi-year, upland pine restoration plan that includes significant hardwood removal, timber thinning and herbicide treatments. As a result, the habitat management work will positively impact more than 150 acres. Improving and enhancing existing wildlife habitat through these practices will dramatically benefit all upland game and non-game species that call this area home.
NWTF members, volunteers and our partners should take pride in knowing their membership, dedication and contributions are what make such projects possible. And with the NWTF’s ability to leverage member contributions with partner dollars, we are able to accomplish even more. For example, during the Big Shoals Project, NWTF members in Florida had their dollars matched nearly 22-to-1 within the cost-share program.