Hilochee’s habitats include scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, wet flatwoods, sandhill and wet prairie.
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. Hilochee is a mosaic of wetland and upland habitats; basin marsh is the most extensive natural community. Many plant communities were altered by previous landowners and are undergoing restoration. Actively managed communities include scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, wet flatwoods, sandhill and wet prairie.
As part of a network of conservation lands that comprises the Green Swamp ecosystem, Hilochee’s habitats help preserve and protect regional groundwater and surface water supplies, support healthy wildlife populations and offer a range of recreational opportunities in a rapidly growing region between Tampa and Orlando.
Prescribed fire clears dead and overgrown brush
Prior to acquisition, land uses on Hilochee were a mix of agriculture (citrus, cattle), timber production, recreation (hunting), and mining for clay and sand. The Osprey Unit experienced the most intense land use, including mining for clay and sand, timber production, agriculture (citrus, cattle, mulch), and a go-kart track. The combination of timber removal, site preparation, drainage and lack of fire, severely altered many natural plant communities. Management and restoration work today is focused on restoring these disturbed habitats, particularly pastures, pine plantations and citrus groves.
Both wetlands and uplands are managed and restored using tools such as prescribed fire, low-water crossings, timber clearing or thinning, control of invasive nonnatives and reforestation with longleaf pine and a variety of grasses and other groundcover vegetation.
An important management focus is the restoration of historic water flow. This involves filling ditches, breaching trams and dikes and constructing low water crossings, culverts and water control structures.
In addition to the management work described here, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rely on a wide range of techniques to ensure that natural areas throughout the state stay healthy for wildlife and inviting to visitors.