News Releases

Wildlife to benefit from thinning planted pines on WMA

News Release

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wildlife managers have finalized a contract with The Forestry Company to thin approximately 753 acres of planted slash pine trees from Guana River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in St. Johns County.

Thinning pine forests is a tool land managers use to improve the habitat for wildlife and plants. The revenue from the sale of the timber is estimated to be approximately $450,000, which will be used for habitat management on the state’s public wildlife management areas.

The tree cutting could begin shortly and may take up to three years to complete, depending upon weather conditions.

“These trees were planted by the previous landowner in the early 1970s and, even though we initially thinned the pine plantation in 2002-2003, there are still too many trees for good wildlife habitat,” said wildlife biologist Justin Ellenberger, the FWC’s manager for Guana River WMA. 

Pine plantations and forests that consist of only one type of tree are fine for producing timber for harvest, but they offer little value to wildlife. Too many trees of the same age and species per acre shade the forest floor and reduce understory plant diversity. 

Wildlife needs forests with a variety of plants and trees of different age groups to survive and be healthy. The goal of this project is to have a self-perpetuating pine forest that we can manage by semi-annual prescribed fire, Ellenberger added.

“By removing some timber and creating a more open pine forest, more sunlight reaches the ground, which allows different types of shrubs, trees and other vegetation to grow,” Ellenberger explained.

Thinning thick forests also reduces the risk of wildfire, because there are fewer trees to fuel a fire and those that remain are spaced more widely apart. The result is healthier trees because there is less competition for nutrients, sunlight and water, which means less damage from disease and insects.

“Fewer trees also provide room for the trees to reproduce naturally, so the next generation of pines can replace older trees as they die out,” Ellenberger said. 

The objective of the habitat-management plan is for the pine forest to closely match the definition of pine flatwoods, where the forest exhibits the species diversity and composition, physical structure, and general ecological integrity expected for that community type ( Pine flatwoods are natural for this area. 

The WMA will remain open to public use during the timber operations. Those recreating on the area will be sharing the main road and trails with logging trucks and should take proper precautions.

“Users should never approach any logging equipment, whether it is in operation or idle. The operators have limited visibility, and there will be falling trees and flying debris,” said Ellenberger. 

For questions about this project, please call the FWC’s Guana River Field Office at 904-825-6877.

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