Important Bird Areas

Blackwater River State Forest

Florida

Located in northeastern Santa Rosa County and northwestern Okaloosa County, extending from the Alabama state line south to U.S. Highway 90. Nearly contiguous with the Eglin Air Force Base IBA to the south.

The Forest is a dominant land feature of Florida's western Panhandle and preserves an extensive amount of habitat. The largest state forest in Florida, it was originally purchased by the federal government beginning in the 1930s. It receives 197,000 recreational and 15,000 hunter user-days annually.

The combined land area of Blackwater River State Forest, Eglin Air Force Base, and Conecuh National Forest (in Alabama) contains the greatest coverage of old-growth longleaf pine remaining in the world. Significant plant species of the Forest include whitetop pitcherplant (Sarraceniea leucophylla), Panhandle lily (Lilium iridollae), and dwarf witchalder (Fothergilla gardenii), while significant animals include the pine barrens treefrog (Hyla andersonii) and gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). The Forest contains the largest expanse of sandhills, longleaf pine upland forests, and seepage slopes in state ownership. The Blackwater River flows through the Forest for approximately 30 miles (48 km). It is a rare sand bottom stream that has been protected in its natural state since the mid-1930s. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has classified portions of the river bounded by state lands as an Outstanding Florida Waterway to acknowledge its high water quality and populations of fish and other wildlife.

Ornithological Summary

Blackwater River State Forest supports a significant population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and all other species of longleaf pine flatwoods and sandhills. When lake levels are reduced, shorebirds can become common during migration. Only a rudimentary bird list is available.

Conservation Issues

Priority is given to management, promotion, and enhancement of the longleaf pine?threeawn (wiregrass) ecosystem. Management activities include prescribed fire at 2?5 year intervals, and restoration of slash pine plantations back into longleaf pine forests. In addition, priority is given to protection of embedded natural communities (e.g., seepage slopes, baygall) and wetlands. ? The number of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers clusters is increasing, partially due to a translocation program.

Ownership

Florida Division of Forestry; co-managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as Blackwater Wildlife Management Area.

Habitat

*sandhills, longleaf pine flatwoods, pine plantation, fields, agricultural fields, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, bayhead, freshwater marsh, riverine, lacustrine, seepage slope (pitcher plant bog), artificial

Land Use

*conservation, *hunting, *timber production, recreation, fish hatchery

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