Important Bird Areas

Apalachicola River and Forests

Florida

This Global IBA encompasses publicly owned lands that border both banks of the Apalachicola River and includes adjacent and nearby tracts that encompass the River's tributaries and floodplain. Included tracts include Apalachicola National Forest, Apalachicola River Water Management Area, Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area, Tates Hell State Forest, Torreya State Park, Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, secured conservation easements, and parcels offered for sale by private owners and pending purchase by the State of Florida within the Upper Apalachicola River Ecosystem Project. Primarily in Franklin County, eastern Gulf County, eastern Calhoun County, eastern Jackson County, southwestern Leon County, Liberty County, and western Wakulla County. Portions are contiguous with the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge IBA to the east and southeast.

Apalachicola National Forest was established in 1936, it is one of Florida's largest and most significant conservation areas. Tates Hell State Forest is a large area south of, and contiguous with, Apalachicola National Forest. Public acquisition began in 1992.

Ornithological Summary

This vast IBA is critically important for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, with 638 active clusters. Apalachicola National Forest alone supports the world's largest population, with 611 clustersrepresenting nearly half of Florida's population, and 12% of the total population. Apalachicola also supports large numbers of other species of longleaf pine flatwoods and savannas, including Henslow's Sparrows, which are locally abundant winter residents. Tates Hell State Forest supports significant populations of the state's breeding Swallow-tailed Kites and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Diversity for Apalachicola National Forest is at least 189 native species; no bird list is available for Tates Hell State Forest.

Additional Data:
Red-cockaded Woodpecker, since 1991 - long-term monitoring

Diversity - 189 natives, 3 exotics

Conservation Issues

Apalachicola National Forest: human disturbance, exotic plants, habitat succession, and cowbird brood parasitism. Tate's Hell State Forest: habitat succession, altered hydrology.

Apalachicola National Forest is one of the most significant conservation areas in Florida and supports a large number of listed plants and animals. Management is geared to improving and maintaining natural communities. The Forest's prescribed-burning program is one of the largest in the nation. The use of Off-Road Vehicles and other private vehicles in the Forest continues to increase. Tate's Hell State Forest and adjacent private lands sought for public acquisition are a vast area to the west of Apalachicola NF and between the Forest and Apalachicola Bay. Formerly managed for timber production, much of the Forest consists of clearcuts and pine plantations. Numerous roads and ditches have severely impacted the hydrology of Tates Hell Swamp. Restoration activities likely will take decades to complete. Fire is being returned to the flatwoods, ditches are being filled, plantations are being thinned, and clear-cuts are being replanted to native pine species. A large portion of Tates Hell Swamp remains in private ownership but acquisition efforts continue. Spoil from channel dredging is dumped along the river shoreline, which damages wetland habitats and contributes to lower water quality in the river. A 20-year lawsuit by the State of Florida against the State of Georgia continues; the plaintiff contends that water diversions by the City of Atlanta near the headwaters of the Apalachicola River has reduced water flow arriving in Florida - water critically needed to sustain floodplain, bluff and ravine habitats and wildlife.

Ownership

U.S. Forest Service (Apalachicola National Forest), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area), Florida Division of Forestry (Tates Hell State Forest, co-managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as Tates Hell Wildlife Management Area), Northwest Florida Water Management District (Apalachicola River Water Management Area), Florida Park Service, The Nature Conservancy and lands pending purchase by the State under the funded Florida Forever program.

Habitat

Apalachicola National Forest: *longleaf pine flatwoods, *pine plantation, *pine savanna, *sandhills, *cypress swamp, *hardwood swamp, *bayhead, *riverine, freshwater marsh, lacustrine. Tates Hell State Forest: *longleaf pine flatwoods, *pine plantation, *pine savanna, *cypress swamp, *riverine, hardwood swamp, bayhead, freshwater marsh, lacustrine, coastal strand

Land Use

Apalachicola National Forest: *conservation, *timber production, *hunting, recreation. Tates Hell State Forest: *conservation, recreation, hunting, timber production

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