Baby gopher tortoise, an at-risk species benefitting from this project. Credit: Randy Browning/USFWS

Project Name:
County Line Wildfire Reforestation and Restoration

Location:
Osceola National Forest, Florida

Key Activities:

  • Planting 429,000 longleaf pines across 858 acres.
  • Restoring habitat for the gopher tortoise, an at-risk species
  • Reforesting areas affected by a 2012 wildfire


Project Description:
American Forests and the U.S. Forest Service are reforesting 858 acres of the northern tier of Osceola National Forest with 429,000 longleaf pines to convert a fire-burned, former timber plantation area to habitat for sensitive wildlife species.

Why This Project:
The targeted area for reforestation used to be private timberlands, specifically slash pine plantations, so this is an opportunity to restore the area to forestland.

A lightning strike on April 12, 2012, near the Columbia and Baker County lines in Osceola National Forest sparked a wildfire, the County Line Fire, which encompassed more than 34,000 acres. The burn area included areas scorched just five years earlier in the Bugaboo Fire.

Why Longleaf Pine:
In the 1600s, longleaf pine covered 60-80 million acres of the Southeast. Today, less than 2.5 million acres of the species remain.

Longleaf pines are crucial habitat for a number of threatened and endangered wildlife species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker. This project is helping the gopher tortoise, which makes its home in pine flatwoods of longleaf pine. In a 2012 review of the Endangered Species Act candidate listing of the tortoise, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified habitat fragmentation, destruction and modification has the primary threats to the terrestrial turtle. The gopher tortoise is considered a keystone species in the region, as the burrows it constructs for its home are used by hundreds of other species once the turtle moves on.


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