Originally, Dinner Island's dry prairies, cypress
domes, freshwater marshes, pine flatwoods and hammocks were a part
of the Kissimmee/Everglades Watershed. Slow moving water flowed
from Lake Okeechobee's southern end and continued south and
southwest down the peninsula, through the Big Cypress Swamp and
eventually into Florida Bay. To satisfy the demand for flood
protection and dry ranchlands, water flow across natural landscapes
such as Dinner Island was altered by ditching and canal
construction that began in the mid-19th century.
The disruption of natural fire cycles and planting
of cattle forage, citrus and sugarcane further altered plant
communities. Despite these changes, Dinner Island has continued to
attract and sustain many resident and migratory wildlife species.
Planned restoration will create habitat diversity and link the site
to a growing mosaic of publicly-owned land that provides critical
habitat for the Florida panther, Florida black bear and other
listed species. Hydrological restoration in portions of the
management area have been completed.
Plant and animal communities at Dinner Island have
been modified by past human activities (i.e. drainage, exclusion of
fire, conversion of native habitats to improved pasture, sugarcane
and citrus groves).
Portions of the property are under contract with private
companies to continue cattle grazing and citrus production.
The long term goal is habitat enhancement and restoration for
Florida panther and other listed species.
The short term, cattle grazing is used as a tool to manage
plant succession and maintain wildlife habitat diversity. To
increase the value of this range for native wildlife, areas will be
restored with pine flatwoods, wetlands, hardwood hammocks and other
native plant communities where appropriate.
Prescribed fire is also used to manage existing desirable
plant communities and increase the diversity of native groundcovers
on flatwoods and wetland communities. Invasive exotics such as
Brazilian pepper, tropical soda apple, wetland nightshade,
Australian pine and smutgrass are controlled through chemical
or mechanical means.
Feral hogs exist at moderate to high densities. Though this exotic
species causes great harm to vegetation when it uproots plants in
search of food, it is a food source for the Florida panther.
The level of hog removal will be set to meet the needs of the
panther and provide hunting opportunities.