Jim King, Conservation Lands Specialist for the Hernando County Planning Dept. gathered 10 volunteers to plant 500 longleaf pine seedlings at Cypress Lakes Preserve in Ridge Manor on Saturday, February 4.
King explains that areas like Cypress Lakes Preserve, in Hernando County had been logged for longleaf pine, slash pine, cypress, maple and other hardwood trees in the 1920’s.
“What you see here is what has grown back since,” King said.
Following a controlled burn to reduce fuel buildup, the county is working on planting longleaf pine. By planting these seedlings it helps rejuvenate the sandhills and benefits all types of wildlife.
Andrews Nursery in Chiefland, operated by the Florida Forest Service grows over 5 million containerized pine seedlings and containerized wiregrass. To support Florida's reforestation needs these seedlings are available for sale to non-industrial private landowners, state and federal agencies.
“I am really happy about it. It’s just one of those (things) you don’t get to do very often,” King said. “It was really a treat to get out there and do that and seeing every seedling properly planted and seeing every suitable sandy spot had a seedling in it. The volunteers did a marvelous job.”
The volunteers do mend the way for the future of preserves like Cypress Lakes, and without their help and dedication the vision of restoring the sandhills would not be as successful.
“It feels like I am making a difference. People talk about saving the world and you really don’t have to go very far from your home to do that. You have important things happening right across the street,” Harrison Rose said.
PHSC student Harrison Rose has been an active volunteer for projects designated by Jim King. He is planning to major in wildlife biology to become a park ranger. He is currently organizing an environmental club at the college here in Brooksville.
“I just want to raise awareness amongst my peers and other students about what's going on in our local area and that there are a lot they can do to help; help with the environment and conservation issues,” said Rose.
Senior forester, Bob Lindemuth with the Florida Forest Service also volunteered for this workday.
“Most of the long leaf ecosystem is highly in danger, over 97 percent of it is gone. Bringing it back to its native range is very important. There is a lot of federal programs to encourage this kind of thing,” Lindemuth said. “There is nothing like seeing a well burnt longleaf forest, it looks just like a park. Big wide space trees, grass understory and wildlife love it.”
Volunteers logged GPS coordinates at the location where they planted their seedlings in order to track growth of the seedlings.
For information about the Environmental Sensitive Lands and to sign up for upcoming projects visit their website at http://www.hernandocounty.us/plan/ESL/index.asp