ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – An Alachua County landowner was recently recognized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for his outstanding wildlife habitat management efforts, as part of the agency’s Wildlife Habitat Recognition Program.
Jim Fischer owns Hatchet Creek Tree Farm in Alachua County, which includes a section of Hatchet Creek and is adjacent to conservation lands managed by Suwannee River Water Management District.
His property connects and conserves upland and wetland habitat, providing a corridor for wildlife and assisting in landscape-scale wildlife habitat management.
Upon purchasing the property, Fischer reached out to natural resource professionals to assist with developing a management plan that would promote wildlife habitat. The property was initially covered with hardwoods that had gradually encroached on the naturally occurring sandhill due to the absence of fire.
Fischer got to work by removing the competing hardwoods, allowing the native longleaf pine trees and native groundcover to be exposed to sunlight. He then began implementing a prescribed burn treatment with the assistance of the North Florida Prescribed Burn Association. After two years of reintroducing fire, Fischer restored characteristic species of the sandhill ecosystem including wiregrass, toothache grass, lopsided Indiangrass and lovegrass.
In addition, Fischer has improved wildlife habitat by treating invasive species including smutgrass on his roads, maintaining snags (standing dead trees) for nesting birds including kestrels, planting native fruit-bearing trees and installing wood duck nest boxes near the creek.
When walking the firebreaks on the property, one can find burrows of gopher tortoises, hear the calls of eastern bluebirds, flush a covey of quail and watch wood ducks take flight near the creek. A resident coachwhip lives beneath the house and is often seen rising like a periscope out of a hole beneath the porch.
Private and public lands provide the habitat necessary to maintain sustainable wildlife populations. The efforts of private landowners to manage their own land to benefit wildlife and its habitat compliments the efforts of public agencies and is critical to ensuring that future generations will have the opportunity to experience and enjoy wildlife in its native habitat. Without private landowner efforts, countless plant and animal species would be at risk of significant population declines, which could result in them becoming candidates for listing on state or federal threatened and endangered species lists.
To show appreciation for the work done by landowners to conserve our state’s wildlife habitat, the FWC’s Landowner Assistance Program created the Wildlife Habitat Recognition Program formally honoring landowners by awarding them with a sign to display on their property and a certificate recognizing their habitat conservation efforts.
Private lands play a critical role in wildlife conservation by protecting and restoring rare habitats like the longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem and by managing farms, ranches, and forests that provide habitat to many species. While public land protects many species of wildlife, these properties form a fragmented landscape of habitat. Private lands connect these islands of public conservation land and provide critical habitat linkages and corridors necessary for many species to thrive.