Restoration Efforts Continue to Expand in the GCPEP Landscape
By Vernon Compton, The Longleaf Alliance
Escambia County Florida is home to diverse natural areas including many rare species found in the longleaf ecosystem. GCPEP is very pleased to welcome Escambia County as the newest partner in the growing partnership. Their lands include those contiguous with both the Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. These lands collectively also assist in buffering an important military installation located in southwest Escambia County, Naval Air Station Pensacola.
A major resource management objective of the county is to effectively manage the natural resources through sound conservation principles and watershed protection and enhancement. Priority actions include restoring and/or enhancing degraded natural areas, removal of invasive species, reforestation, restoration of natural hydrology, and the use of prescribed fire as a tool to promote ecosystem health and wildfire prevention. In addition to these conservation goals, the county is also providing an important recreational opportunity on their land through the development of a multiple-use path called the Southwest Greenway Trail. This trail will provide connections to natural areas for residents and tourists alike.
One of the striking natural areas being managed and restored by Escambia County is the Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve. Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve lies between Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park to the west and Bayou Chico to the east. Wet flatwoods abutting waterways are found on the preserve, and prescribed fire is a part of the restoration strategy that is helping to return the area to more natural conditions. Several species of pitcher plants are found on the preserve and are responding to the increased light being provided through fire and woody species control.
GCPEP partners look forward to opportunities to work and learn together with Escambia County staff to further recover the longleaf ecosystem and the very diverse natural communities found in this westernmost county in the Florida Panhandle.
Image 1: Escambia County’s Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve. Photo courtesy of Escambia County.