Habitat management efforts under way on conservation lands
Over the last month, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation land management activities have been in full operation on conservation lands, while following safe guidelines for social distancing and cleaning practices.
In preparation for the arrival of the prescribed fire season, the proposed burn units have been prepped by cutting back tree limbs near fire breaks and widening and disking – breaking up the soils and vegetation with a tractor to deter a fire from crossing an area – those breaks to keep the fire contained and the lines passable for vehicles.
For much of the spring, conditions were too dry to consider conducting a controlled burn.
“Quarantine procedures in late March and April, due to the pandemic, ruled out any controlled burns,” Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz said. “However, due to loosening restrictions, we will be looking for windows to perform one.”
Habitat management staff has been continuing to spray herbicide on emerging Brazilian pepper throughout the spring, especially in hard to reach areas that are normally too wet to traverse. Other exotic plants, such as cogon grass, climbing cassia, air potato, javaplum and Wedelia are also treated while searching for Brazilian pepper. Consistent and scheduled control efforts are essential to keeping exotic vegetation at maintenance level in the hopes of reaching eradication level.
Land Conservation Steward Victor Young has been also working on removing hardwood shrubs and trees on important gopher tortoise ridges on the C. R. Johnston Tract. The effort will allow more grasses and ground cover plants to occupy those areas for tortoises. Young also sets and checks the wildlife cameras on the SCCF properties to monitor wildlife activities and environmental changes. By adding cameras to the process of managing lands, the SCCF can gauge after-effects of the process and how wildlife responds to the effort.