Branan Field WEA was acquired with funds received through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Mitigation Park Program. The primary goal of this program is to compensate for gopher tortoise habitat lost to development elsewhere. Through the program, developers opt to provide funds that are used to acquire and manage other offsite, upland plant communities. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responsible for the resource management of the area; activities are directed toward the restoring and maintaining habitats critical to the long-term benefit of state and federally listed upland species, particularly the gopher tortoise, Florida mouse and southeastern kestrel.

pine flatwoods with gopher tortoises enclosure
Chris Tucker - Enclosure protecting several hatchling gopher tortoises from predators

After coming into state ownership and management, the commercial pine stands were thinned to open up dense tree canopies and stimulate the growth of ground-dwelling plants used for food by the gopher tortoise. Open canopies also allow the heat from direct sunlight to assist with tortoise nest incubation. Regular prescribed burning, using frequent, high intensity growing season burns, was introduced as a primary management tool. These burns mimic lightning ignited fires and help control hardwood growth while promoting wiregrass and longleaf pine seed germination. Burns also help control hardwood encroachment in wetter areas dominated by slash pines and palmettos.

FWC Facts:
Young whooping cranes are capable of flight when they are 80-90 days old.

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