Upland Pine, Blackwater River State Forest. Photo by Gary Knight

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Map of the Month: Historical Natural Communities of the Apalachicola National Forest

Effective land management for conservation requires an understanding of what the property to be managed was like before any changes due to human activities like logging, agriculture, wetland drainage, road building, or disruption of natural wildfires.  FNAI Biologists have mapped the historical vegetation on 2,414,045 acres of Conservation Lands in Florida to help inform land management.  This map of historical natural communities on the Apalachicola National Forest is based on 1937, 1942, 1952, and present day aerial photography, LiDAR elevation data, soils maps, hundreds of ground-truthed GPS points, and locations of rare species occurrences.  This map served as the basis for an Ecological Condition Model of the Apalachicola National Forest, developed by the US Forest Service.

FNAI contributes a variety of data and analyses to help inform conservation land management decisions.  Together with reference natural communities, historical vegetation maps help land managers set goals for restoration and management of conservation lands across the state.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Science Behind Florida Forever

A major role of the Florida Natural Areas Inventory since our founding in 1981 has been to provide scientific information and expertise to support the state’s land acquisition and land management efforts.  This role ramped up substantially with the beginning of the Florida Forever program in 2001.  FNAI developed and maintains the Florida Forever Conservation Needs Assessment, a series of statewide prioritized GIS data layers that address a variety of natural resources that are the focus of land acquisition.  These maps identify conservation priorities for rare and vulnerable plant and animal species, natural communities, landscape corridors, surface waters, wetlands, floodplain, forestry, aquifer recharge, and more.

When the Florida Forever Act was first passed in 2000, state legislators were seeking greater accountability from land acquisition efforts.  They specified that the Florida Forever program:

  • Be based on a comprehensive assessment of Florida’s natural resources
  • Should provide multiple benefits
  • Involve a competitive selection process to select projects best able to meet the goals and maximize efficient use of the program’s funding
  • Should be based on measurable goals and objectives.

In response, FNAI developed the Florida Forever Conservation Needs Assessment in coordination with the DEP Division of State Lands, and in cooperation with partner agencies and resource experts.  The Needs Assessment:

  • Provides baselines of resource protection against which to measure progress
  • Identifies priority lands to meet conservation needs
  • Identifies areas that meet multiple conservation needs
  • Clearly and continuously tracks and reports progress of the Florida Forever program.

FNAI Rare Species Habitat Conservation Priorities, a component of the Florida Forever Conservation Needs Assessment.

FNAI also developed the Florida Forever Tool for Efficient Resource Acquisition and Conservation, or F-TRAC analysis, to consider all of the above resource values together and identify those places where the state can achieve the most conservation benefit per acre acquired.  All of these data and analyses are provided to the Florida Forever Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) to help inform their decisions on acquisition proposals, project rankings, and land management planning.  FNAI is also able to report overall progress of the program toward conservation of each natural resource category.

The Acquisition and Restoration Council in session.

Excerpt from the Florida Forever Comparative Analysis Table, provided to ARC by FNAI prior to each project ranking.

FNAI staff scientists also participate in site visits to Florida Forever project proposals, and provide narrative reports evaluating the natural resources and land management potential of each site.

FNAI and ARC staff visit a site proposed for a Florida Forever project.
Taken together, all of this information provides sound science to inform and support the Florida Forever program.  For more information, visit our Florida Forever page for data, reports, and more details.