A late spring review found that Tate’s Hell State Forest is an outstanding example of land management, in a report published in July.
Florida law requires a review of conservation, preservation and recreation lands every five years to determine if they are in compliance with the published management plan.
The review teams, coordinated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Lands, include representatives of the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks, the Florida Forest Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, local government and representatives of the local soil and water management district and private and conservation land managers.
The committee to review Tate’s Hell State Forest included County Planner Mark Curenton, Linda Chaisson representing the Northwest Florida Water Management District; Kim Wren of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, Green Guide Lesley Cox of Carrabelle and representatives of Audubon, and the Nature Conservancy.
The resulting review offered nothing but accolades to the management team for Tate’s Hell.
“It’s pretty unheard of to get all accommodations and no recommendations,” said Forest Operations Manager Clint Davis.
Forest Supervisor David Morse said the report doesn’t mean that work restoring Tate’s Hell is done. But “it means we’re making progress and meeting objectives,” he said.
Morse said goals of the management plan for Tate’s Hell include fostering native wildlife; managing water; fire control; restoring native vegetation and promoting recreation.
Davis said the report is not a reflection on him but, rather, on the team management team responsible for the forest.
This was the second review for Tate’s Hell; the state forest which was acquired by the state in 1994 under the Florida Forever program.
Tate's Hell State Forest, which comprises 202,000 acres of land in Franklin and Liberty counties, at one time supported at least 12 major habitats including: wet flatwoods and prairie, seepage slope, floodplain forest and swamp, upland hardwood forest, sandhill, pine ridges, dense titi swamp thickets and scrub.
During a 40-year period of private ownership prior to the state’s acquisition, more than 800 miles of forest roads and ditches were constructed on the property to accommodate intensive commercial timbering. Most of the area was planted with pine monoculture, and the drainage canals dried what had been wetlands, leading to an extensive loss of habitat and wildlife. Apalachicola Bay suffered from the loss of the previously continuous freshwater flow.
The current management plan includes measures to restore water levels and eliminate many roads throughout the swamp.