There are great things happening in our backyard! The Tate’s Hell State Forest liaison committee bi-annual meeting was recently held at office headquarters in Carrabelle. Officials from various state organizations (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Forest Service, Northwest Florida Water Management District) and citizens representing different local organizations were in attendance.
Here are some of the exciting developments that were presented and discussed:
Scholarship opportunity – In partnership with Franklin County School District, a $20,000 a year scholarship is available to a qualified Franklin County School District student who plans to attend a four-year college and major in forestry. For more details contact the guidance department at Franklin County Schools.
Internship program – This summer two high school students were part of an internship program with the forest service. These students worked side by side with forest service professionals learning what foresters do. The program will be offered again in summer of 2017. Anyone interested in learning more about this summer program for high school students should contact Clint Davis, operations administrator, Tate’s Hell State Forest 697-3734
• SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) Timber Certification –Tate’s Hell State Forest is one of only two state owned forests in the state that has achieved this prestigious status. Certification is an arduous process. An independent agency performs an audit of the forest and looks at forest health, productivity, diversity, and management. Timber harvested from a SFI certified forest is considered to be a more valuable commodity
Wildlife Update – Wildlife is thriving in the forest. Two species discussed were the federally endangered red cockaded woodpecker and the state protected gopher tortoise. Currently there are 51 active red cockaded woodpecker nests that have been identified and are being monitored. Gopher tortoise habitat continues to be surveyed and monitored using GPS technology
Recreation Update - a) Recreational use of the forest is up, which corresponds to higher revenue being generated. b) The new and expanded High Bluff hiking trail has two new bridges. c) An information kiosk located at Tate’s Hell headquarters in Carrabelle has information available 24/7. d) Three campsites at Womack Creek now have power hookups. e) This past March, over 30 people participated in a Tate’s Hell cleanup.
Fire and Road Update – Despite weather challenges, road crews continue to provide access to the forest. Fire crews are busy planning and doing controlled burns and fighting wildfires when they occur.
I think that you will agree with us, there are some really great things happening in our backyard! Thank you FFS and FWC - what great neighbors you are!
Katie Herzog, Lesley Cox, Tom Herzog
Members, Tate’s Hell advisory board