Management Plan for the Integrated Habitat Network / Coordinated Development Area: Lease Nos. 3963, 3995, and 4236
The "Management Plan for the Integrated Habitat Network: Lease Nos. 3963 and 3995" was originally published in 2002. Five significant issues affected the tracts of land leased to or being monitored by the BMR. Since then, the BMR staff has identified a sixth issue, which will be addressed in this management plan revision. Since these issues also pertain to other tracts within the IHN not leased to the BMR, they either have been or will need to be addressed in those areas as well. These issues are:
BMR land management staff at the Homeland Office has made significant progress in addressing and resolving these management issues during the past several years. The BMR’s updated plans to address these management issues on its leased properties and other areas within the IHN are outlined below.
Issue 1: Definition and Protection of Property in IHN
When the IHN management plan was first published in 2002, property boundaries around most of the BMR-managed tracts had not been delineated, marked by signs, or fenced. Access onto many of these properties was obstructed or non-existent. Encroachment from adjacent landowners and individuals was a common occurrence. The BMR’s initial needs upon acquisition of these leases were the definition and protection of property boundaries.
A land surveying company under state contract with the DSL was engaged in 2002 to survey property boundaries of the BMR-managed IHN lands. To date, boundary delineation has been completed in the majority of the BMR-managed Coastal Settlement tracts on the North Prong of the Alafia River and the Peace River . For those BMR-leased tracts where property definition has not yet been completed, BMR staff will continue to assess the need for delineation and ensure this work is completed within the next few years by private firms under contract with the DSL.
Signs stating Integrated Habitat Network lands are "Managed for the Environment in Cooperation with Landowners" were designed and produced in 2002. These signs have been installed along the boundaries of the following BMR-managed Coastal Settlement tracts: Little Payne Creek, North Prong of the Alafia River , Clear Springs, and Homeland. BMR staff will continue to install or supervise the installation of markers denoting those areas as part of the Integrated Habitat Network along property boundaries accessible by the public.
BMR staff has coordinated with adjacent landowners and has made significant progress in improving access to IHN lands where it was previously limited or non-existent in order to carry out management and monitoring activities. In areas where unauthorized access to BMR-leased lands has been or continues to be a problem, fencing has been installed or repaired and/or security gates and locks installed at access points. BMR staff will continue to conduct frequent inspections of tracts to detect unauthorized infringements and will continue to work with the FFWCC, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of any illegal encroachment on these parcels of land.
Issue 2: Definition And Protection Of Resources Within IHN
Distinct archaeological or historical resources, outstanding or unique natural features, atypical soils or minerals, diverse water resources, and listed animal or plant species and the habitats that might support them are all likely to be present on the IHN lands. However, in the absence of more definitive field surveys and data reviews, the existence, extent, and location of these resources could only be speculated. More definitive information about any existing non-renewable and renewable resources was needed for the development of specific guidelines in the conservation and preservation of these assets.
BMR staff began to address this issue in 2003 using GIS/GPS to comprehensively map locations of exotic plant infestations, water sources, archaeological features, potential habitats of listed species, and other points of interest relative to the management of the property.
he field surveys and resource mapping have revealed several interesting discoveries within the BMR-managed IHN tracts. One of these sites is Kissengen Spring, located on the west side of the Peace River south of Bartow. Flow from the spring ceased many years ago but an upwelling appeared in Kissengen Spring in January 2006 and remained visible for several weeks after. Though the exact cause of this “boil” is as yet undetermined, the BMR will continue to assist the U.S. Geological Survey (“USGS”), SWFWMD, and Polk County with the investigation of this phenomenon. The second historical resource site was discovered by BMR staff in 2004 and later added to the Department of State’s Master Site File. The site is a rock weir constructed by Native Americans (probably used to concentrate fish for harvesting) located on the Peace River in the vicinity of Ft. Meade.
To date, resource mapping in the northern tract of the Peace River has been completed on the areas designated Clear Springs and Homeland tracts. Resource mapping will continue in other BMR-managed lands within the IHN. BMR staff will continue to work with the DHR and other agencies in the conservation and preservation of archaeological/historical resources and outstanding/unique natural features on IHN lands.
Outstanding/Unique Natural Features
Although there is little possibility of outstanding native landscapes with relatively unaltered flora, fauna, or geological conditions on the BMR-managed leases, the BMR will continue to conduct field surveys and database reviews of its leases to identify and locate any remnant communities, populations, or natural features that may have gone undetected up until now. The BMR will emphasize the protection and preservation of any outstanding or unique natural features that currently exist or which may be found on IHN lands within the realm of this management plan. Any outstanding and unique natural features on lands being considered for lease to the DEP/BMR will be protected through the Environmental Resource Permit process and the long-term maintenance and protection mechanisms arising from this process.
Soils/Minerals and Water
Plans to protect and conserve land and water resources on the IHN need to incorporate aspects for both natural, undisturbed areas as well as those for mined, disturbed lands. Best Management Practices currently exist for the management of many natural areas and agricultural lands, but BMPs and site-specific management guidelines for reclaimed lands still need to be addressed and developed.
SWFWMD began Total Maximum Daily Load and Minimum Flows and Levels studies as well as exploring other research endeavors on the Upper Peace River hydrology in late 2003. BMR land management staff joined with SWFWMD, the USGS, and the DEP Bureau of Watershed Management in this effort. BMR staff also assisted Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, SWFWMD, and Polk County Natural Resources in the collection of water samples from area tributaries in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley to study flow patterns and water quality differences of surface and groundwater along the Peace River . The BMR also plans to coordinate with agencies such as U. S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (“NRCS”), soil and water conservation districts, water management districts, and cooperative extension services regarding BMPs for soil erosion control and water resource management. By working with cooperative extension services to determine Integrated Pest Management Programs for lands within the IHN, BMR staff will be able to employ BMPs for pesticide and fertilizer use on BMR-managed lands to minimize or avoid adverse impacts to surface and ground waters. Appropriate water conservation BMPs will also be used on individual tracts of IHN, as needed. Information collected from these studies will be incorporated into the Peace River Cumulative Impact Study/Resource Management Plan, currently under development by the BMR in conjunction with SWFWMD.
Vegetation/Land Uses and Fish/Wildlife
In August 2005 the FFWCC and DEP executed a Memorandum of Agreement (“MOA”) for the coordination of conservation issues related to permitting, reclamation and management on lands affected by mining. Under this MOA, these two agencies will work together to conserve and protect water resources and wildlife within the IHN. While maintenance and enhancement activities such as prescribed fires, exotic species control, and planting food species for wildlife have been performed by these agencies in the past, the MOA will increase the efficacy of management activities aimed toward improving habitats for wildlife. A link to this document is available on http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/mines/ihn/index.htm.
Several threatened and regionally rare species have been found on IHN lands by BMR staff during its resource surveying efforts. BMR staff will continue to carry out resource mapping and surveying on IHN lands to obtain more information about existing resources and use it to develop adequate guidelines and schedules for maintenance and enhancement activities needed to protect and preserve these resources.
Issue 3: Improvements to Impacted Areas Within IHN
Phosphate mining began in central Florida in 1800’s and several of the parcels in the Integrated Habitat Network have been impacted at one time or another by mining or mining-related activities. Mining debris is still present on some of these properties and presents safety concerns for the public and impediments to beneficial wildlife habitat. Lands mined prior to July 1, 1975 were not required by the State to be reclaimed and there are areas within the IHN in this condition. Some of the mined or disturbed areas that were reclaimed but not actively managed since their release from State reclamation requirements have become dominated by nuisance or exotic species.
A major effort to reclaim one of these impacted areas is currently underway on the BMR-managed Homeland tract. An Environmental Resource Permit was issued to the DWRM by SWFWMD in 2003 to initiate reclamation activities on Nonmandatory Reclamation Parcel MCC-FM-06. Testing of surface water leaving MCC-FM-06 began in the summer of 2003 and work has progressed to the point where earthmoving and revegetation are well underway. By early 2006, earthmoving activities in this parcel were approximately 80% complete; reclamation activities in this parcel are expected to be completed in the near future.
The restoration of the ecological and hydrological functions in the heavily mined Saddle Creek and the Upper Peace River watershed is another ambitious project initiated by the BMR. In 1995, a Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the DEP, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, SWFWMD, DOT, and Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission (now the FFWCC), was the impetus for the project. Of the four potential alternatives originally considered, one was eventually selected following the completion of modeling studies as the route for surface water flow through the Tenoroc Fish Management Area. Deemed a key element in the success of the restoration project, surface water flow will be of paramount importance in the selection, placement and success of mitigation wetlands at TFMA and the completion of reclamation activities on various Nonmandatory Reclamation Programs at the site (details can be seen at www.dep.state.fl.us/water/mines/upr/index.htm). A contract with a private company was executed with the State on June 26, 1998; reclamation activities have been underway since then and are expected to be completed within the next several years.
In other areas of the IHN, BMR staff has mapped the location of old mining debris along portions of the Peace River and worked with phosphate companies to enhance the property by removing the debris from several areas. BMR staff will continue to work with landowners, consultants, phosphate industry representatives, and other agency personnel to determine areas in need of reclamation, potential sources of funding for reclamation activities, and in the development of reclamation plans for those areas in the IHN with secured funding.
Issue 4: Development of BMPs for IHN/CDA Lands
Management plans to protect and conserve land resources on the IHN need to incorporate aspects for both natural, undisturbed areas as well as those for mined or disturbed lands. It has become apparent that existing BMPs for unmined lands, such as those for forests, cattle, construction, citrus, water quality, etc. are inadequate when applied to mined and reclaimed lands, especially those reclaimed for environmental purposes. The massive impacts that occur in an area during phosphate mining can significantly hamper the success of reclamation efforts. Soils are drastically altered through the removal of natural soil layers and the introduction of waste sands or clays, important soil microorganisms are depleted or destroyed, and wetlands, streams, and water bodies that were eliminated or severely impacted by mining activities are likely replaced by mine pits or created wetlands and water bodies with different substrates, drainage patterns, and locations. BMPs designed specifically for mined lands reclaimed for environmental and agricultural purposes need to be developed, tested, and compiled for use throughout the phosphate mining district in order to better protect IHN lands.
The BMR has been working with various entities in the development of BMPs for mined lands reclaimed to environmental habitats, including:
BMR staff will continue with these efforts and initiate others to further the development of these BMPs for lands reclaimed to environmental and agricultural/silvicultural uses.
While some phosphate mined land is reclaimed to environmental land use, the majority is reclaimed to an agricultural land use. The BMR has been promoting research on lands reclaimed for agricultural purposes through coordinated efforts with other groups, including:
Since the predominant post-reclamation land use is agriculture-related, the BMR began promoting in 2002 the development of a Mined Lands Agricultural Research and Education Center (“MLRC”) to address various uses of reclaimed lands for semi-intensive and intensive agriculture. Proposed research would include appropriate cattle stocking rates, grazing management, the use of controlled grazing/prescribed fire/integrated pest management, and other areas of interest in agricultural-related uses of reclaimed lands. The MLRC would be developed as a reclamation and environmental education facility that could be used to develop BMPs for phosphate mine reclamation activities, serve to educate the public about the phosphate industry, and serve as part of a larger regional environmental education center (proposed research into agricultural uses on reclaimed lands would be conducted with the attainment of Minimum Flows and Levels, Water Conservation and Re-Use, Total Minimum Daily Limits, and nutrient recycling as the primary objectives). In early 2006, the mined lands research center is in initial development; documents by the MLRC Ad Hoc Committee are available through links on http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/mines/ihn/index.htm.
Issue 5: Public Awareness and use of IHN/CDA Lands
Since the inception of the Integrated Habitat Network management plan in 2002, the BMR has expended a great deal of effort in promoting the idea to industry representatives, agency employees, and environmental groups. BMR staff has joined with representatives from other agencies to offer meetings, visual displays, documents, lectures, field trips, etc. in an effort to increase the general public’s knowledge and understanding about the IHN concerns, needs, and accomplishments. Several examples include:
Future educational efforts might include organizing volunteers to assist with resource management projects on BMR-leased lands, such as conducting resource inventories, monitoring vegetation or wildlife population changes in response to management activities, mapping exotic/nuisance species, etc. BMR assistance with other avenues of environmental education, such as creating information kiosks for trails, assisting with field trips, offering presentations, etc., would also serve to promote the IHN concept to the public. Promoting programs that provide funding for organizations which create/maintain greenways and trails systems with in-kind services and volunteer hours, such as the Recreational Trails Program, DuPont Awards Program, the Forest Service’s Florida National Scenic Trail cost-share program, Florida Recreational Development Assistance Program, etc. would serve to promote the IHN. Developing volunteer organizations with the Florida Trail Association, the Florida Canoe and Kayak Association, the Audubon Society, etc. to construct and maintain areas to be used by the public would also give the BMR a means to educate the public about the IHN concept.
While the main focus of the management plan is on maintaining lands for wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity, and riparian connections, there is also interest in providing limited areas of the IHN for public use. Except for portions of the Alafia River State Recreation Area tract, the current level of public use in the IHN is extremely low. Numerous areas, such as the sensitive floodplain wetlands, lands that may contain archaeological or historical resources, wildlife habitat, or geological sites, will not be able to support unrestricted public use. Other areas contain unconsolidated clays, mine debris, or unreclaimed lands that would make them unsafe for public use in their present condition. However, under certain conditions, some areas may be capable of supporting recreational, educational, and limited agricultural activities. Until it can be determined exactly what resources and conditions exist on these lands, it is in the best interests of the public and the State to restrict recreational use on the BMR-leased lands. Restrictions and requirements of leases and agreements, the type and extent of proposed public use, and results of vegetation and wildlife surveys would be used in the determinations for or against public use on a parcel of land. The DEP is aware of the need to facilitate public access to State lands in portions of the IHN, provided that this increased use does not compromise the original conservation intent of the IHN property. As the need for more human-intensive uses of these lands increases, the BMR will work with land management agencies to ensure compatibility of use and may relinquish management of portions of the IHN as appropriate on a site-specific basis. The BMR has worked with local government land acquisition departments regarding priority lists for acquisitions that will simultaneously benefit the county and the IHN. The BMR is also coordinating with local organizations and agencies in the development of Nonmandatory Reclamation Program lands for horseback, off-road bicycling, all-terrain vehicles, and other high impact public recreational uses.
Issue 6: IHN/CDA Concept Included in Agency Reviews
Current emphasis in the State is to increase coordination among the various government agencies involved in permit reviews, with the goal being to eliminate duplicate efforts, present uniform permit requirements to stakeholders, and improve efforts at natural resource conservation, reclamation, land use, etc. through enhanced policies and regulations. Legislative initiatives and cooperative efforts between local, county, state, federal, and regional agencies have resulted in a more comprehensive view of conservation and protection of IHN/CDA lands beyond the wetland permitting and reclamation emphasis that occurred in the past. Cumulative impact studies are determining changes that have occurred in the southern phosphate mining district, primarily as a result of agriculture, mining, and urbanization, and the efficacy of previous and current regulatory and non-regulatory efforts. Resource management plans are being produced that can lead to recommendations for an improved regulatory framework that will minimize or eliminate these adverse impacts to the environment. Consistency in the regulatory and non-regulatory requirements will make the public better able to understand the need for such legislation as well as more willing to comply or assist with the protection efforts.
Last updated: June 30, 2015
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