Polk County Habitat Conservation Plan
Wildlands Conservation is working with Polk County to develop a mulit-species Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). An HCP is developed as part of the application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP), under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). An ITP authorizes the incidental take of threatened or endangered species. An HCP ensures there is adequate minimizing and mitigation of the effects of the authorized incidental take; it is a requirement of the ITP.
Gopher Tortoise Payment for Ecosystem Services: Testing a Pilot Program
The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) occurs in parts of six southeastern states and is listed as a Threatened species by the State of Florida’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Gopher tortoise populations have declined range-wide due primarily to habitat loss. The gopher tortoise plays an important role in the ecosystem. The gopher tortoise digs burrows; over 350 animals depend on the tortoise burrow for all or part of their life cycles; a decline in gopher tortoise populations is likely to result in a decline of all of these other important species. For this reason the tortoise is called a keystone species; a keystone species is a species that plays a crucial role in the overall health of the ecosystem.
The Cooperative Conservation Blueprint
The Cooperative Conservation Blueprint (Blueprint) is a multi-partner planning process initiated in 2007 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as part of implementing the 2005 State Wildlife Action Plan. The Blueprint process brings together diverse stakeholders such as landowners, the environmental community, industry, federal, state and local governments, universities, scientists and citizens. Wildlands Conservation has been involved in the Blueprint since January of 2011.
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.
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.
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 gage 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 PascoCounty 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.