“The Ocala National Forest is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River. The forest contains the largest concentration of sand pine in the world as well as some of the best remaining stands of longleaf pine in central Florida.” (Ocala Wildlife Management Area, 2018) It spans nearly 400,000 acres and contains several hundred lakes including Salt Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Alexander Springs, and Juniper Springs. The forest is home to black bears, white-tailed deer, bald eagles, wild turkeys, scrub jays, red cockaded woodpeckers, eastern indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, and of course, alligators.
The Big Scrub “The Ocala National Forest was comprised mostly of sand pine scrub. This unique ecosystem, referred to as the Big Scrub, is what is left of a chain of islands before the sea retreated 25 million years ago.” (Ocala National Forest, 2018) Since the sea retreated, instead of water, these “islands” are surrounded by other forest types such as pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and bayheads. 70% of the Ocala National Forest is Sand pine scrub ecosystem.
The Big Scrub is depe Gopher tortoisendent on the disturbance of fire to survive, this is because the pinecone seeds do not open unless under high heat. The Use of Prescribed Burns “Prescribed burns are an important tool for maintaining habitats in the Ocala National Forest.” (Ocala National Forest, 2018) Burning the forest on a regular schedule has a number of benefits. reduces the threat of wildfires removes dense understory build-up improves wildlife habitat necessary for regeneration of certain plant species Timber Harvesting “In the Organic Act of 1897, Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, and National Forest Management Act of 1976, Congress directed that one of the purposes of National Forests should be managing the ecosystem. This includes timber harvesting and removing merchantable trees for vegetative management.” (Ocala National Forest, 2018) The primary timber harvested in the Ocala National Forest is the very common sand pine. Management of Timber Harvesting Due to the way that the pine’s seeds are opened due to extreme heat, the park has decided on a management technique involving clear cut, then a prescribed burn, followed up by seeding. This simulates the natural effects of wildfire. “The Forest Service requires much time and planning, using the latest scientific knowledge, to go into the preparation of a timber sale. It may take years to complete the harvest, from start to finish.” (Ocala National Forest, 2018)
A portion of the profits from the sales of timber are given to the county the timber was harvested from. Those funds go strictly towards construction and maintenance of roadways and schools. The rest of the profits are deposited into the National Treasury. Call for Protection from “Lawless” Logging An objection to logging practices permitted by the park was made by a journalist who grew up in the area, Jenifer Collins. She spent her childhood fishing, kayaking, and camping in the park. In an article she wrote that was published on October 31, 2014, she claims that even if harvested by law, the logging practices in the park could be devastating to the ecosystem. She cited S. 1966, the “National Forests Job and Management Act of 2014,” sponsored by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY). It says that of the areas within the park deemed “logging emphasis areas”, 25% need to be going through the harvest process at all times. “This amount of logging would result in the loss of at least 7.5 million acres over a 15-year period (a near tripling of current logging levels), as well as devastate all the vital benefits these lands provide, such as clean drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. ” (Collins, 2014)
“Within the Ocala National Forest, only limited products are permitted to be harvested. The Forest Service collects fees for the issuing of permits to harvest these natural resources.” (Ocala National Forest, 2018) These are the forest products available with a permit for private or commercial harvesting:
Firewood may be harvested only in designated areas that have been evaluated for their relative abundance and impact on wildlife. Crooked wood (lyonia ferruginea) and deer moss may only be harvested from areas scheduled for regeneration.
“As the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest, the Ocala National Forest is home to rare and endangered plant species, including some found nowhere else on earth. Our management plan for the forest includes special caretaking of these species.” (Ocala National Forest)
Plant life protected by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the PETS listing system. PETS is an acronym for Proposed, Endangered, and Threatened Species.
Plants within the Ocala National Forest that are protected are as follows:
“For protecting water quality and soil productivity, the National Forests in Florida uses as a baseline the silviculture Best Management Practices, developed under the auspices of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Forest Service adds further restrictions on activities to protect water and soil or to enhance wildlife habitat. These restrictions apply to all activities. Site-specific conditions of every project are assessed, and appropriate restrictions are employed to protect resources and meet State and Federal water quality standards.” (Ocala National Forest, 2018)
Collins, Jenifer. “Our National Forests Must be Protected from ‘Lawless’ Logging”. Earth Justice. Earth Justice, 31 October 2014. Web
Debolt, Ann M.; Martin, Erin P.; Rosentreter, Roger. ‘Macrolichen Diversity in Subtropical Forests of North-Central Florida’. The Bryologist, Volume 110, Issue 2, 11 September 2006, Pages 254-265.
Harlow, R.F; Sanders, B.A.; Whelan, J.B.; Chappel, L.C. ‘Deer Habitat on the Ocala National Forest: Improvement Through Forest Management’. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry, Volume 4, Issue 2, 1 May 1980, Pages 98–102.
Oleas, Nora H.; Peterson, Cheryl L.; Thompson, Jane. ‘Genetic and Habitat Variation Among Populations of the Critically Imperiled Vicia ocalensis (Fabaceae) in the Ocala National Forest, USA’. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, Volume 145, Issue 3, 10 August 2018, Pages 202-211.
Sarkar, D.; Datta, R.; Mukherjee, A.; & Hannigan, R. (2016). An Integrated Approach to Environmental Management. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
No Author. “Ocala National Forest”. Forest Service. United States Department of Agriculture, 2018. Web.
No Author. “Ocala Wildlife Management Area”. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. State of Florida, 2018. Web.
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