Important Bird Areas

Ocala National Forest-Lake George

Florida

Lake George Conservation Area, 8168 ha
Lake George State Forest, 7935 ha
Ocala National Forest, 155231 ha

In northern Lake County, eastern Marion County, extreme southern Putnam County, and western Volusia County, primarily from the northern portion of the Ocklawaha River south to State Road 40 between the western portion of the Ocklawaha River and U.S. Highway 17. Contiguous with the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge and the WekivaOcala Greenway IBAs to the south.

Three public properties that form a huge, contiguous conservation area in the north-central Peninsula. The Ocklawaha River forms the western boundary, while the St. Johns River and Lake George, the second-largest lake in Florida, are found in the eastern portion of the IBA. Ocala National Forest is west of the St. Johns River, while Lake George Conservation Area and Lake George State Forest are to the east. The Conservation Area protects most of the eastern side of Lake George, while the State Forest is to the south, contiguous with Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Lake George Conservation Area is managed as a Wildlife Management Area by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Lake George State Forest is managed for multiple use, and also is a Wildlife Management Area. The State Forest receives 500 recreationists and 800 hunters annually. Ocala National Forest is the southernmost national forest in the continental United States. It was the first national forest established in the eastern United States, in 1908. It receives over 2 million recreationists annually.

Ownership: U.S. Forest Service (Ocala National Forest), Florida Division of Forestry (Lake George State Forest), St. Johns River Water Management District and Volusia County (Lake George Conservation Area)

Ornithological Summary

Ocala National Forest is critical to the survival of the Florida Scrub-Jay, supporting the largest extant population and accounting for more than 20% of overall numbers. It also supports Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and other flatwoods/sandhills species. Eighty point count stations (40 in sand pine scrub and 40 in longleaf pine sandhills) in the National Forest are surveyed once annually during the breeding season to track populations of selected species. The points are surveyed for 10 minutes are broken down into segments of 03, 45, and 610 minute segments to allow comparison with BBS data and other surveys methods. The area surrounding Lake George contains one of the densest nesting concentrations of Bald Eagles in the United States.

Conservation Issues

Lake George Conservation Area: human disturbance, offsite development, exotic plants, feral hogs. Lake George State Forest: exotic plants, feral hogs. Ocala National Forest: *human disturbance (Off-Road Vehicles), *habitat succession, *exotic plants

Lake George Conservation Area: Off-Road Vehicle disturbance is addressed in the management plan. Vehicles must remain on designated trails at all times. ? Feral hogs and exotic plants are controlled as needed. Some out-parcels remain to be acquired. ? Pine plantations are being thinned, and will be managed to attain a more natural old-growth condition. Forests heavily burned during the July 1998 wildfires were salvaged-logged and are being replanted to longleaf pine to be managed as natural flatwoods. Lake George State Forest: Beginning in the 1960s, native longleaf pine was aggressively harvested and converted to slash pine plantations. Nearly half of the Forest burned during the July 1998 wildfires; current restoration efforts include salvage logging and replanting with longleaf and slash pines. Former bahiagrass pastures also are being replanted to pines. ? Feral hogs and exotic plants (primarily air-potato and camphortree) are controlled as needed. ? Most of Ocala National Forest is managed for the production of sand pines, which are harvested for pulpwood. The Forest contains more Florida Scrub-Jay groups than any other site: 763 groups in 2001. Clear-cuts regenerate initially as xeric oak scrub, then succeed to sand pine forests. +Cox (1987) found that clear-cuts 4?7 years old are most suitable for Florida Scrub-Jays, which then must move to other, more recent clear-cuts as the sand pines increase in density and height. The long-term effects of mechanical treatment as a substitute for fire management on scrub flora and fauna are unknown +(Woolfenden and Fitzpatrick 1996). ? A ?National Forests in Florida Land and Resource Management Plan? was issued in 1999. Its conservation objective is to contribute to recovery

Ownership

U.S. Forest Service (Ocala National Forest), Florida Division of Forestry (Lake George State Forest), St. Johns River Water Management District and Volusia County (Lake George Conservation Area)

Habitat

Lake George Conservation Area: *hardwood swamp, *slash pine plantation, pine flatwoods, temperate hammock, cypress swamp, lacustrine. Lake George State Forest: *slash pine plantation, *longleaf pine flatwoods, *temperate hammock, *hardwood swamp, sandhill, fresh water marsh, fields, riverine. Ocala National Forest: *sand pine scrub, *xeric oak scrub, longleaf pine flatwoods, sandhills, temperate hammock, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, bayhead, freshwater marsh, riverine, lacustrine, artificial

Land Use

Lake George Conservation Area: *conservation, *hunting, *timber production, recreation. Lake George State Forest: *conservation, *timber production, recreation, hunting. Ocala National Forest: *conservation, *recreation, *timber production, hunting

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