June 22, 2018
At the beginning of June, I set out to map the finished plots of restored wetlands. Rising water levels forced me to abandon my ATV and I soon found myself nearly waist deep just halfway across the 100 acres of wetlands undergoing restoration. Two weeks ago this plot was dry, and a grinder equipped with wide tracks was methodically pressing into the sea of surrounding willow, clearing the way for a flush of native grasses and sedges soon to follow. The fast-rising water will prevent the willow from resprouting, require less chemical treatment, and pave a shorter route to success. New leaves of native duck potato and pickerelweed can be seen keeping pace as they emerge from this newly sundrenched landscape. Fifty meters to the south, an elegant Black-Necked Stilt complains to all who will listen, I am clearly unwelcome! Two dozen wading birds are scattered throughout the clearing stalking fish.
We are so thankful for our new partners Coca-Cola and Sea World – and the ongoing support from The Rathmann Family Foundation, the Big Cypress DAR, the Robinson Foundation, Steve and Merilee Nellis for truly elevating and expanding this restoration endeavor over the past year. To date, we have cleared 340 acres. Our resource team has done a fantastic job controlling the undesirable species in the plots we had previously cleared – and the view is breathtaking.
We will clear 1,000 acres in 5 years. And perhaps just as meaningful, we will have influenced the state and many other stakeholders to adopt our approach that will make lasting gains on thousands of other acres, all benefiting birds, fish communities, abating saltwater intrusion and reducing the frequency and severity of wildfires. It is so rewarding to be a part of this.
-Jason Lauritsen, Sanctuary Director