Gopher Tortoise Authorized Agent Courses
Wildlands Conservation, in conjunction with the Ashton Biological Preserve, is certified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to provide Authorized Agent training courses to individuals working with gopher tortoises. This is consistent with our conservation mission, as we place a tremendous amount of importance in placing accurate and job-relevant information into the hands of those individuals that will most likely be on the ground working with this species. The typical student for these courses is in a professional position that places him or her in contact with gopher tortoises and/or gopher tortoise habitat on a regular basis. This course is ideal for state and local government employees, private land managers, environmental consultants, developers, and non-governmental organization members, to name a few.
Reptile and Amphibian Surveys for the Seminole Tribe of Florida
Wildlands Conservation recently worked with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to evaluate existing survey methodologies, fine tune those methodologies, and implement modified surveys in an effort to collect baseline data on the reservation’s herpetofauna, with special emphasis on invasive species. The specific goals of these surveys are to eventuate approximately 90,000 acres of their South Florida property to:
1) Determine the presence and potential distribution of invasive amphibian and reptile species on each reservation, with particular focus on the following detrimental invasives: constrictors (Burmese Python, African Rock Python, Reticulated Python, Green Anaconda, Yellow Anaconda, Ball Python, and Boa Constrictor) and lizards (Nile Monitor, Argentine Black and White Tegu, and Black Spiny-Tailed Iguana);
2) Catalog an inventory of native amphibian and reptile species that are present on each reservation. Species inventories are preferred because they can provide relative measures of abundance at a reduced cost. Sampling techniques necessary to estimate population abundances, while effective, are much more expensive and may not best meet Tribal goals; and
3) Create and/or adapt protocols for maximizing the probability of achieving goals 1 and 2 that are efficient, valid, and repeatable, thus allowing for year to year comparisons of data and utility for management tools, such as the invasive curve.
Conservation and Mitigation Banks
Wildlands has permitted both a conservation bank and a mitigation bank on two adjacent properties located along the eastern slope of the Lake Wales Ridge in Polk County, FL. This 300+ acre property, located adjacent to state lands, not only provides habitat for the federally protected sand skink, it offers a unique assemblage of habitats that extend from scrub to a seepage slope dominated by bays and cutthroat grass. We are also working on the permitting of another bank and are providing consultation services in assisting several capital investment groups identify lands that are appropriate as banks. Wildlands identifies these sites by consulting with various peers working with state agencies, local municipalities, and bringing to the table their understanding of the region’s ecology and “big picture” protection” strategy.
Gopher Tortoise Permitting and Relocation Services
Wildlands is performing gopher tortoise permitting and relocations at several sites across the state. Our biologists are FWC Gopher Tortoise Authorized Agents that are mission driven to perform property evaluations, permitting, excavations, and relocations with the highest possible quality at the lowest possible expense to the land owner. It is because of our ability to provide high level professionals at lower costs to the land owner that we are the choice of several special projects in the state (e.g. Incidental Take Permits, etc.).
Peace River Network
The Peace River is the principal freshwater source for Charlotte Harbor, Florida’s second largest estuary. The Peace River is a critical life line of central Florida – it is an essential source of water supply for thousands of Floridians, and it is the watershed of the Bone Valley region- Charlotte Harbor and southwest Florida’s health is directly related to the health of the Peace River. A healthy, protected, Peace River is critical in light of the fact that the region’s primary land uses over the past century have been phosphate mining and agriculture. The Peace River corridor is not only regionally significant, it also provides one of the few viable options for functionally connecting conservation lands in the south and north Florida, from the Everglades to the tip of the Florida panhandle.
The Effects of Flatwoods Restoration on Wildlife
In 1998, CF Industries underwent an experiment to compare various treatments in attempt to identify the most effective, timely, and cost efficient way to restore improved pasture to pine flatwoods, the native habitat type on six selected treatment areas. One way to gauge the success of this flatwoods restoration is to compare the wildlife use of these treatment areas to the wildlife use in typical pine flatwoods (reference sites) in close proximity to the treatment areas. In other words, “if you build it, will they come?” Wildlands designed and implemented an intensive survey regimen on the treatment sites and two local, typical pine flatwoods communities for comparison.
Jumping Gully Preserve Comprehensive Restoration Plan
Wildlands Conservation is assisting Pasco County with developing a comprehensive restoration plan for the newly acquired preserve in Pasco County, FL. The preserve is a relatively hilly 600 acre property that extends along the upper reaches of CrewsLake in central Pasco County.
Polk County Ecological Evaluation
Wildlands is conducting an intensive literature review to create up to date ecological profiles (species accounts) for all current or impending federally protected wildlife species (herein referred to as “focal species”) that are likely to occur in Polk County. These profiles detail the rational for identifying the focal species as well as the following detailed ecological information: physical description, habitat description, life history information, occurrence, population trends, and threats.
Wildlands will then use the ecological profiles to create detailed habitat models that clearly delineate the occurrence, preferred, and potential habitat for each of the focal species. The habitat models will be used to identify areas that may be suitable for future conservation activities. These areas will be prioritized by ecological value and connectivity to existing conservation.