Project Name: Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park Longleaf Planting, Phase 4
Location: Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park, St. Johns River, FL
Number of Trees: 30,000
Hundreds of years ago, America’s southeast was covered with more than 200 million acres of savannah and woodlands; more than 30 percent of these forests were filled with longleaf pine. By the mid 1990s, longleaf pine had been reduced to 2.5 million acres, leaving red-cockaded woodpeckers with one percent of their original habitat range. It’s no surprise, then, that a species that used to number in the millions is now endangered, numbering in the thousands.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers are unique among birds. They live in monogamous breeding pairs, with one to four of their male offspring as “helpers.” Each member of the family unit makes their home in a mature (80-plus years old), living (all other woodpecker species use dead trees) pine tree in which cavities can take years to excavate. The mortality rate of offspring is high, with more than 55 percent of chicks failing to survive their first year.
And the woodpeckers aren’t the only ones making their homes in these cavities. The red-cockaded woodpecker is considered a keystone species in the Southeast because the cavities it builds also provide homes for at least 27 other vertebrate species, which include other birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
The red-cockaded woodpecker makes its home wherever mature longleaf pines are found, including Florida’s Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park. Due to logging practices in the park prior to becoming part of the St. Johns River Water Management District, the longleaf pine stands aren’t as dense as is required for suitable woodpecker habitat. American Forests has worked with St. Johns to restore Hal Scott’s forest for several years, planting more than half-a-million trees. That work is continuing in 2012, as American Forests has committed to plant 30,000 longleaf pines across 100 acres to benefit the red-cockaded woodpecker and the other wildlife that Hal Scott supports.
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