Partners Help Boost Habitat in the Florida Flatwoods

The NWTF and partners collaborated to improve nearly 150 acres on the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Forest Service all contributed to the success of this project.

The St. Marks NWR encompasses over 80,000 acres and is home to diverse habitat and wildlife. The American Bald Eagle, Red-cockaded woodpecker and, among an array of other game and nongame species, the Eastern turkey can all be found on the NWR.

Herbicide was sprayed in the pine flatwoods area of the refuge to control hardwoods and shrubs – predominately gallberry, fetterbush and saw palmetto – that have become too dense, making the area unsuitable for wild turkeys and many other species.

Florida’s NWTF Superfund paid $19,980 as part of the FWC/NWTF/FFS Wild Turkey Cost-Share Program to fund the herbicide application. The cost share program is a partnership-funding program that allows the FWC, NWTF and FFS to leverage their funds and collaborate with public land managers to improve wild turkey habitat and forest resources throughout Florida.

Shortly after the herbicide application, St. Marks NWR staff performed controlled burns on the 150-acre area and an additional 2,000 more acres within this section of St. Marks NWR. The 2,000 plus acres that have been enhanced this year, in part to NWTF contributions, are part of a 4,000-acre, youth-only hunting area on the St. Marks NWR.

“This area is reserved for mentored youth hunts, with a deer and hog hunts in the fall and a spring turkey hunt to introduce youth to hunting,” said David Nicholson, NWTF district biologist for Florida. “So, these projects not only improve wildlife and wildlife habitat within the youth hunt area, but they are also used to teach youth about wildlife habitat management techniques and the importance of quality wildlife habitat.”

“The combination of herbicide and prescribed fire will create a more herbaceous understory within a shorter timeframe than if the area was only prescribed burned,” Nicholson said. “This provides better brood, foraging and nesting habitat for turkeys and will better support future prescribed burns.”

Small and large game hunting opportunities exist on the refuge under certain regulations and quotas. For more information on hunting the St. Marks NWR, visit https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/regulations/st-marks-national-wildlife-refuge-hunt.pdf  

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