Category Archives: Endangered species

Expressions of these forests: comments sent to GRASI


Hit documents.

There are 3 reports cited on top, hit the one in the middle “…Appendices B-1…”

Comments submitted at the GRASI scoping hearings in August, 2013, e-mailed or mailed later are found on sections B113-B179, B182, B 192-93, B 204-209.   A summary on subjects spoke to are found  in B14-B28.

Eglin Air Force Base GRASI document available


Just posted on the Federal register:   http://www.//

Hearings on this document which describes how the military plans to use these two state forests for military maneuvers and communications overlay over the forests:

June 3, Tuesday, Carrabelle City Hall 6:00PM

June 4, Wednesday, Apalachicola, Franklin County Commission, Main Court Room, 6:00 PM

June 5, Thursday, Santa Rosa Bagdad Recreation Facility, 6:00 PM.

All comments must be received by June 23.  See document for above for form and comment instructions.

For more information see: http://www.//



Eglin AFB Operations Plan for Military Training on Blackwater River State Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest

I have excerpted the Annual Operations Plan (and agreement between Eglin AFB and the Florida Department of Agriculture) in the sister blog  It is too long for me to retype it here.

You can also view the 14 page plan at

Operational Plan for Eglin AFB in Tate’s Hell and Blackwater River State Forests


Panel 4,  when clicked, will give you the operational plan.

Listed species – Blackwater River State Forest


Gopher Tortoise

Blackwater River State Forest is home to many species on the federally endangered and threatened list.

  • 1 Fish
  • 5  Amphibians
  • 8 Reptiles
  • 5 Birds
  • 3 Mammals
  • 54 Invertebrates
  • 19 Plants and Lichens

The Nature Conservancy says of Blackwater River State Park:

“Considered by many as Florida’s premier state forest, Blackwater River State Forest — 209,571 acres and counting — is the bedrock of a conservation complex that hosts an amazing 300 species of birds and 2,500 species of plants.  One of the most biologically rich areas in the US, the forest is part of a vital nature corridor that gently rolls from Conecuh National Forest along the Florida-Alabama line to the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The state forest is a significant piece of the largest, continuous longleaf pine/wiregrass forest complex in the world. Once blanketing the entire southeastern United States, only 3 percent of that vast forest survives today.

For more:  see

Conclusion – Part IX of 9

This is available in full at   Authors  James A Farr and O Greg Brock are with the Florida Division of State Lands.


Florida continues to lead the nation in purchasing property to protect natural resources and provide resource-based recreation.  Our programs have been successful for many reasons, the most important of which is the enthusiastic support, even demands, of our citizenry, who do not have to live in Florida for very long to notice treasured areas being lost to development at the alarming rate of 165,000 acres each year (an average of 453 acres daily) and who are keenly aware of the need to preserve our natural areas to provide a basis for our tourism-based economy.   Our political leaders have recognized the popularity of natural resource protection and have responded with a series of land conservation programs spanning more than four decades.   funding for our programs has been based primarily on activities that have resulted in the need for conservation:  documentary stamp taxes on real estate transactions, which are becoming increasingly numerous as development continues, and severance taxes on environmentally damaging mineral extraction activities.

Our programs invite public participation throughout the process, beginning with the ability of anyone to submit an application, through the project evaluation and selection process, the development of management plans, and oversight of how the lands are managed.  there are public conservation and resource-based recreation lands in each of our 67 counties, with large tracts accessible to all citizens within relatively short distances.   Our citizens have clearly been rewarded for their support and participation with a myriad of conservation lands available for their enjoyment.

Finally, and most importantly, we have been successful in preserving for posterity a substantial portion of our natural heritage.  Our natural lands contain hundreds of listed species, our most imperiled vegetative communities, significant cultural and historical sites, watersheds and water recharge areas.  Our lands contain rivers, lakes, springs, beaches, central Florida scrub, north Florida sandhills, significant wetlands, and an incredible variety of upland habitats.   They provide us a myriad of recreational opportunities, including nature study, camping, hiking, swimming, canoeing, hunting and fishing.   Our 159-unit system of State Parks has twice been awarded the National Recreation and Parks Association’s Gold Medal Award, honoring Florida as the Nation’s “Best State Park Service.”  through our environmental land acquisition efforts we are able to embark on restoration of large natural areas like the Florida Everglades and north Florida longleaf pine habitats.  Our citizens, their descendents, and our visitors have all gained a heightened quality of life.


This is available in full from,  Authors are James A Farr and O Greg Brock, Florida Division of State Lands.

We could not tell a complete story of successful land acquisition programs in Florida without mentioning the extraordinary role of local governments.  Since 1972, 29 of Florida’s 67 counties, eight municipalities, and the Lake County Water Authority have developed their own local land acquisition programs.   Most of these have resulted from local referendums in which citizens have voted overwhelmingly to increase their sales taxes or property taxes to fund land acquisition and management.  Much of the incentive for these programs has come from the ability of local governments to receive matching funds from state programs like CARL, Florida forever, the Florida Communities Trust and Water Management Districts to assist in purchasing lands of local and regional significance.  Local governments in Florida have raised more than $2 billion and have been responsible for the purchase of approximately 375,000 acres of conservation and resource-based recreation lands, an astonishing feat in this era of tax reform and private property rights.


This can also be viewed on  Authors are  James A. Farr and O. Greg Brock, Florida Division of State Lands

Every parcel of state-owned conservation and resource-based recreat land must have a manger assigned to it.   We have four primary land managers within the state system.  The Division of Recreation and Parks within DEP manages our state park system, which includes state parks, state recreation areas and state preserves.   The Office of coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas, also in DEP, manages aquatic preserves, our three National Estuarine Research Reserves and the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary.  The Division of Forestry, housed in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages the state forest system.  Finally, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (formerly the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, but now merged with the former Marine Fisheries Commission) manages Wildlife Management Areas, with an emphasis on hunting, and Wildlife and Environmental Areas, with an emphasis on protecting listed species.   The Division of Historical Resources within the Department of State also manages a few historical and archaeological sites around the state, and DEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails manages the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area.

The purpose for which a project is purchased is identified as part of the project evaluation process, and the manager is confirmed by the Governor and Cabinet when the acquisition is approved.   After receiving a lease from DEP’s Bureau of Public Land Administration, the land manager has one year to develop a management plan for a new management unit or an amendment to the management plan of an existing unit.  The management planning process involves holding the public meetings in which citizens living near the park, forest, preserve, reserve or wildlife area are given the opportunity to participate in deciding how a parcel will be managed. 

The management plans themselves identify in much greater detail the natural resources on the site, outline the management needs of the site and how those needs will be addressed, provide site plans for any proposed development (cabins, camping areas, ranger residences, trails, roads, bathhouses, etc.) and provide an estimate of the amount of funding and personnel that will be needed for optimal management of the site.   Upon completion, the management plan must be submitted to an approved by the Acquisition and Restoration Council, who ensure that the sensitive natural resources on the property will be protected.

Land Management Review Team

As part of the ongoing process to provide accountability to the public for proper management of state-owned conservation lands, the 1997 Florida Legislature added a new process to inspect parks, forests, wildlife areas and buffer preserves to ensure that they are being managed appropriately in accordance with their acquisition purposes and management plans.  The Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for establishing regional Land Management Review Teams to inspect and evaluate management of units of our state-owned conservation lands inventory.   The review teams consist of an individual from the county or local community  in which the parcel or project is located and who is selected by the county commission in the county which is most affected by the acquisition; individuals from the Division of Recreation and Parks, the Division of Forestry, and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; an individual from DEP’s district regulatory office in which the parcel is located; a private land manager, a member of the local soil and water conservation district board of supervisors; and a member of a conservation organization.

The review teams are required to visit and report on all of our management units great than 1000 acres in size every five years and may also inspect smaller units as time permits.   We currently have approximately 485 State Parks, State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, State Buffer Preserves, and other environmental and cultural management units in Florida (including several jointly owned with local government, water management district, and other partners), of which 148 are greater than 1000 acres in size.   All 148 of these have been inspected at least once, and we are in the process of visiting all of them a second time.   We have also inspected approximately 40 of the smaller units.

The Department of Environmental Protection compiles the results of the site inspections into an annual report for the Governor and Cabinet.  Prior to being presented to the Cabinet in October, DEP staff also makes a presentation at a public meeting of the Acquisition and Restoration Council.  Members of the general public have an opportunity to comment on Land Management Review Team findings at both the ARC and Cabinet meetings.

Management Funding

Funding for land management prior to Preservation 2000 was historically from a hodge-podge of individual trust funds (State Park Trust Fund, Division of Forestry’s Incidental Trust Fund, State Game Trust Fund, etc.), unpredictable general revenue appropriations to individual managing agencies and various other state and federal funds.   We were often criticized, perhaps fairly, for purchasing more land than we were able to manage.  Certainly management needs exceeded the available funding.   It was also difficult for managing agencies to begin to take care of newly-acquired lands and open them to the public because they could not get management money until the next time the legislature was in session.

Management funding became more timely and more stable under Preservation 2000 with a system that continues today.   First, with the majority of acquisition funds now coming either from the sale of bonds or directly from general revenue, the old CARL Trust Fund began to be used as a source of funding for land management.  Bond funds cannot be used for land management.   The old mixture of trust funds and other assorted funds still exists, but there is now a more reliable recurring source of revenue for land management.

The management funds are distributed among managing agencies in accordance with the number of acres they manage, weighted by the intensity of management required by some sites. In particular, the division of Recreation and Parks receives three times the amount per acres for managing state parks, which typically require more infrastructure and facilities development, more personnel, and more active supervision of visitors.  At the beginning of each fiscal year (July 1 of each year), 90 percent of available long-term management funds are distributed among the managing agencies for ongoing management of their lands.  Ten percent is held in reserve for managing historical resources and for any special management needs.   any funds from this reserve that are not spent by April 1 of each year are distributed among all managing agencies based on the weighted formula used at the beginning of the fiscal year.

We have also instituted a procedure for allocating interim management funds to land management agencies as soon as they execute their lease from the Division of State Palnds.  these interim management funds allow the managing agencies to begin taking care of their lands as soon as they receive them in their system rather than having to wait until the lands are included in the next round of long-term management fund allocation.  Immediate needs typically include fencing and various activities necessary to prepare a site to accept visitors.

There are still insufficient management funds for ideal management of all of our conservation lands, as outlined in the long-term plans for site development and management in individual land management plans, but was have significantly improved management funding since enacting the Preservation 2000 Act.  Although funding shortages are stillthe primary reason that our parks, forests, wildlife areas and buffer preserves are not managed to their full potential, all of our conservation lands are being adequately managed in conformance with the reasons for which we bought them, and all are open to the public.

Project Evaluation and Selection – part V of 9

This can be viewed also on  Authors James A Farr and O Greg Brock are with the Florida Division of State Lands.

We will now explain the process by which lands are chosen for purchase under the Florida Forever Program and how the lands are actually purchased.   This process has remained basically unchanged since the inception of the CARL program in 1979, although there have been a few substantive changes that we will explain below.   We will also introduce our land management planning process.

From 1979 – 1990, the CARL program had one selection cycle per year.   We increased this to twice per year under Florida Forever.  Anyone may submit an application to ARC to have a project considered for acquisition.   We have routinely received applications from private landowners, real estate agents and other representatives, state and federal agencies, local governments water management districts and conservation groups.   The application form and various support materials are available online at  it is very important to note that our program depends on landowners who are willing to have their property considered for purchase by the state.   Prior to an application being submitted, all landowners must be contacted by the applicant, and an owner’s property must be removed from a project boundary if the owner requests it.

After the application deadlines of January 1 and July 1 of each year, all submittals are distributed to the nine ARC members and to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI).   FNAI is our state natural heritage program, part of a nationwide Heritage Network that gathers and organizes information relating to the biodiversity of each state (Stein et al., 2000).  FNAI provides initial resource information from their databases for each of the new projects.  Based on the application materials, FNAI data, and, very importantly, a public hearing with input from citizens, environmental groups, project sponsors and others, ARC members perform an initial evaluation of each new project.  It a minimum of five members vote in a public meeting to move the project forward, it then moves to a more detailed evaluation.

The Florida Natural Areas Inventory has developed an iterative modeling tool called F-TRAC (Florida Forever Tool for Efficient Resource Acquisition and Conservation) for identifying projects that contribute the most toward satisfying our conservation needs (Oetting et al., 2006).  The model incorporates species, natural communities, high quality watersheds, wetlands and sustainable forestry.  It is run every six months in conjunction with each new application cycle and takes into account land currently in public ownership, land in existing projects, and lands proposed for acquisition.  Because it evaluates unprotected land in relation to land that we already own, the relative importance of unbought parcels may change as new land is purchased and resources that were underrepresented in our inventory become better protected through public ownership.

The Florida Natural Areas Inventory plays a critical role in the next steps of project development.  After a project passes the initial vote, FNAI staff recommend a project Resource Planning Boundary that may vary from the boundaries proposed in the initial application.   Property may be added to the Resource Planning Boundary if there are tracts with significant natural resources adjacent to the original proposal or if it makes sense to include entire ownerships when only partial ownerships were proposed.  They may also delete areas with known disturbances of development or even recommend that only a part of an ownership be pursued.

After the Resource Planning Boundaries are determined, FNAI and agency staff perform site visits and write a detailed evaluation of the project.  The project evaluations contain descriptions of the vegetative communities, listed species found on the property, description of groundwater and surface water resources, historical and archaeological resources, recreation potential, a proposed management concept and suggested managing agency, and recommendations regarding phasing and whether all or part of the project would be appropriate for a conservation easement or should be bought outright.

The completed project evaluations are distributed to the ARC members, who then hold a second public hearing on the projects before a second vote to approve the projects to an acquisition list.   Those projects that receive at least five affirmative votes are then voted onto either an “A” or “B” list.  “A” list projects are those considered most important for acquisition and may be pursued by the acquisition staff of the DEP Division of State Lands.  “B” list projects are a lower priority and may only be worked on if the state can pay no more than 50% of appraised value.  To be purchased, these projects typically require matching funds from a local government or water management district partner.   The cost to purchase all of the projects on our acquisition lists has always substantially exceeded our acquisition budget, so some sort of prioritization is essential.

The separation of projects into two list, basically high and low priority, is a new phenomenon under Florida Forever.  Under the CARL program, from its inception through the end of Preservation 2000, we ranked projects from highest to lowest priority and developed acquisition work plans based on the relative ranking of individual projects.  There was much more certainty about which projects would be worked on inn any given fiscal year, but less of an opportunity to respond to changes in landowner willingness to sell, imminent threat of development, and other contingencies unforeseen at the time of ranking.   Each method has its advantages.  With a formal ranking of the projects from highest to lowest priority, the Council had more of a direct input into acquisition priorities.  By lumping projects into just two groups, within which all projects are equal, acquisition priorities are determined to a much greater extent by staff of the Division of State Lands.  Ranking reduces the ability to exert political or interest-group influence on which projects are pursued.

We should note that a project may range from a tiny site of less than ten acres (e.g. to protect a historical site like the Key West Customs House or a localized natural resource like a Southeastern Bat maternity cave) to one more than 200,000 acres (e.g. the Tate’s Hell Swamp in Franklin County).  They may have one or a few landowners, as is the usual case, to more than 20,000 owners, as was the case in our Save Our Everglades project, which included thousands of individual platted lots in the Southern Golden Gate Estates.  Projects are not necessarily designed to be completed in a single year, and some larger projects may take more than two decades to complete (e.g. a large landscape project in the Wekiva River  basin in Orange, Seminole and Lake counties, or the Save Our Everglades projects).  We are not always successful in negotiating purchases of lands that we consider important, but by maintaining essential parcels on our acquisition list, we are able to respond if an owner’s willingness to sell changes or the ownership itself changes.  If a parcel within a project is lost to development, we can reevaluate out priorities within a project to determine if the project is still worth pursuing or if priorities within the project need to be adjusted.

The final step in creating the acquisition lists is approval of the final “A” and “B” groupings by our Governor and Cabinet.  As with the CARL program, the Cabinet may approve or reject the list or remove individual projects, but it may not remove projects from “A” to “B” or vice versa.  The lists are submitted in the form of an Annual Report and Interim Report, both of which include project summaries, purposes of acquisition, management concepts, and other pertinent information.   By approving the report, the Governor and Cabinet approve both the groupings of projects into two list as well as the rationale for their inclusion as acquisition projects and the determination of how they will be managed. 

National Audubon Important Bird Area by Peggy Baker

Blackwater River State Forest has been designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA) with a global priority (the highest).  This designation means that this area in Northwest Florida is vital to birds and other biodiversity.  It provides essential habitat for the survival of one or more species.   In 2009, Francis M. Weston Audubon Society (Pensacola) undertook the task of surveying the birds in the (Blackwater River State) forest.

During the three years of weekly bird survey trips into Blackwater River State Forest, the FMWAS (Pensacola Audubon society) team made these observtions:

The team identified 181 different bird species within its 240,000 acres of forest.

The number of species of birds seen in the forest varied greatly from season to season.

1) There were 51 species there year around.

2) In addition, 39 more species were seen only during summer months.

3) There were 59 species observed only in winter.

4) There were 32 species of birds seen only during spring and fall migrations.

5) The most species and numbers of birds were seen in winter when 110 species were   observed.

6) Ninety (90) species of birds nest and raise young in the forest.

Under the Migratory Bird Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established a list of Birds of Conservation Concern — 1008.  Twenty-three (23) of these bird species have been surveyed in Blackwater River State Forest.   These include

Bald Eagle                                                        American Kestrel

Swallow-tailed Kite                                         Solitary Sandpiper

Roseate Spoonbill                                          Common Ground-dove

Chuck-will’s-widow                                        Whip-poor-will

Red-headed Woodpecker                             Loggerhead Shrike

Brown-headed Nuthatch                              Wood Thrush

Sedge Wren                                                   Black-throated Green Warbler

Prairie Warbler                                              Cerulean Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler                                   Swainson’s Warbler

Kentucky Warbler                                          Bachman’s Sparrow

Henslow’s Sparrow                                       Le Conte’s Sparrow

Rusty Blackbird

Some of the most important conclusions drawn from the BRSFBS  (Blackwater River State Forest Bird Survey) results include:

The acquisition of the Yellow River Ravine has created a wildlife corridor connecting Eglin AFB, Conecuh National Forest and Blackwater River State Forest.   This provides migratory birds a safe and supportive habitat on their journey across the Gulf of Mexico to and from their breeding grounds.   This corridor is unique in northwest Florida.

During spring and fall migration, 23 species of warblers were identified in small numbers in Blackwater River State Forest.   These warblers depend on insects and worms found in oak, pine, beech and a variety of other trees in the forest to help them recover from their long flight across the gulf or to prepare them for the long trip.  Other migrants, particularly Wood and Swainson’s Thrushes, were found eating the buds of bay trees during fall migration.

The food plots planted for deer and other wildlife attract wintering sparrows in great numbers.  Large flocks of Chipping and Vesper Sparrows were present on every winter trip to these plots.  Numerous wintering warblers including Palm, Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers were also found in these plots.  These plots provide a very important winter habitat for many bird species.

Dead snags left standing have attracted large numbers of woodpeckers.   In addition to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker project of the Forestry Department which has been very successful, the forest is the home of good numbers of nesting Pileated, Red-bellied, Red-headed, Downy Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers.  There are a good number of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and a few Hairy Woodpeckers in the forest during the winter season.

Eastern bluebirds nest in the natural cavities of the dead snags.  The Brown-headed Nuthatches are also plentiful in the forest and use the dead snags for nesting.

Bachman’s Sparrows, a threatened indigenous species, were heard or seen in eleven of the thirteen survey areas in the forest during the spring breeding season.

Southeastern American Kestrels were seen feeding young in a clear-cut area in early spring.  Nesting boxes were erected by the FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission) in 2011 and two pair have been documented nesting in the last two years.  This sub-species has had an overall decline of 82% in the last 70 years.  This nesting evidence is important to the survival of this sub-species.

Wood Ducks were seen in ten of the thirteen survey areas during the nesting season.   Other migratory ducks were observed in low numbers during the winter season in the lakes in Blackwater River State Forest.

Birds that need larger, natural cavities in older oaks are almost non-existent in the forest.  There were no Barn Owls seen or heard in the forest.  Only a few Screech Owls were heard.

Red-headed Woodpeckers, a bird on the national watch list, are present in good numbers in the summer.  However they are less abundant in the forest in the winter because their major food in that season is acorns.  It appears that there are not enough oaks in the forest to provide enough food for these birds in the winter.

Kentucky, Hooded and Swainson’s Warblers were heard and seen in low numbers in the nesting season in the thicket areas along the waterways within the forest.

The ponds at the FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission) Fresh Water fish Hatcher located in BRSF (Blackwater River State Forest) attract migratory shorebirds and wading water birds.  Bald Eagles sometimes perch in surrounding trees looking for feeding opportunities.

Wintering Hermit Thrushes and Blue-headed Vireos have been found in surprisingly large numbers in the pine plantations and in areas of thick undergrowth.

Areas in the forest that should attract wintering Henslow’s and Le Conte’s Sparrows have not been located.  One sighting of each bird was reported in the food plots.

Clearcuts and replanted areas of small (pines) attract birds that prefer tall grasses or short bushes and trees as a nesting site.   These birds usually relocate once the new pines reach head height.  Yellow-breasted Chats, Prairie Warblers, Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings were found nesting in planted, pine areas until the trees were about six feet tall.   Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings also nest in clearcuts and grassy thickets.

In areas where the Sand Pines have been thinned, the numbers and species of birds increase immediately as they find a food source that was not previously accessible.

It is our hope that our findings will impact the management and conservation of this Important Bird Area.

Peggy Baker is with the Francis M. Weston Audubon Society and the director of the 3 year bird survey in Blackwater River State Park which ended in early 2012.   She attended  the Florida Forestry Service Liason (group)  meeting in July and attended a meeting of the Florida Forestry Service 10 Year Plan Steering Committee in early August and nothing was reported on the GRASI proposals.   She found out about the GRASI proposal at the GRASI scoping meeting in August.