23 November 2006

Program aims to restore refuge

Suzanne Kennedy is part of this collaborative effort between the City of Titusville and other partners to restore public land habitat for several endangered animal and plant species. and reduce the forest fuel load that potentially could lead to a catastrophic fire in an urban interface. The team plans to implement mechanical treatment late 2006 to thin trees and follow that first step of fuel reduction with a prescribed fire for further fuel reduction and to create the sandy open pathcs that support an abundance of rare species. Below is the unedited article from the local newspaper.

Florida Today - Melbourne, FL - August 2, 2006 ... You can only find the Florida scrub jay in Florida, while the Titusville balm, a small brushy plant with purple blooms, is known to exist only in Brevard County ...

August 2, 2006 Program aims to restore refuge BY JESSICA RAYNOR FLORIDA TODAY

The land looks pristine, a bastion of nature surrounded by development on Barna Street.

The smell of mint lingers in the air as crickets chirp and a light breeze worries leaves on the dense scrub oak foliage.

But this seemingly ideal mini-nature refuge -- a city water-well field -- is anything but perfect for two of its unique residents -- the threatened scrub jay and the rare Titusville balm plant. Severe overgrowth shadows the ground, hiding food and predators from the scrub jay, and the Titusville balm fights for space with ground vegetation.

So, later this year, a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will fund a series of controlled burns aimed at returning the land to its natural state, while reducing wildfire danger to nearby homes and several of the city's drinking water wells.

"Right now in those well fields you've got extreme fuel loads," said Dean Pettit, chairman of the Titusville Environmental Commission. "You've got civilization within close proximity. That's the last thing you want to catch on fire. It would be an intense situation."

The USFW program Partners for Fish and Wildlife will provide $25,000 of the project, with several groups, including the city fire department, the Environmental Endangered Lands Program in Melbourne and the Nature Conservancy, kicking in manpower and know-how.

"It's truly a partnership," said Jay Herrington, state coordinator for the Partners program.

Private landowners -- or anyone who doesn't claim state or federally-owned land -- can propose projects to the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, which earmarks money for the top plans. Last year, Partners for Fish and Wildlife helped improve 11,879 acres at 16 sites across Florida.

Brevard County natural resource maps list the land as a Xeric Scrub Habitat. Because of a lack of vegetation-clearing natural fires, the land has become crowded with scrub oak and undergrowth. USFW chose the site because it is large, at 250 acres, and it should support a population of scrub jays, Pettit said.

That makes it unique. You can only find the Florida scrub jay in Florida, while the Titusville balm, a small brushy plant with purple blooms, is known to exist only in Brevard County.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife first plan to help with the mechanical reduction of the fuel load, knocking down trees and chopping up vegetation, said CalLee Davenport with USFW. Once those dry out, a delicate and detailed controlled burn will begin, headed by the fire department and taking on the acreage piece by piece over several years.

After 10 years, the land should be close to its natural state -- hosting scrub jay families that eat acorns, Pettit said. And fire danger will be greatly reduced, he said.

"It's good for the species and public safety," he said.


Post a Comment

<< Home