Half Moon is blessed with a diverse mosaic of natural plant communities. The Withlacoochee River and its hardwood swamp comprise the south and western borders of the management area.
The heart of Half Moon contains pine flatwoods with marshes and oak hammocks scattered throughout. The Gum Slough spring run stream and its floodplain forest makeup the northern edge. Scrubby flatwoods and the Mill Creek swamp comprise much of the eastern side. Half Moon also has pockets of baygall, sandhill, and wet flatwoods.
FWC strives to maintain and restore a diversity of habitats on Half Moon Wildlife Management Area for the benefit of a wide array of wildlife species and the people of Florida.
Prior to FWC acquiring Half Moon, many of the previous land management practices had a negative impact on wildlife and native habitats, including ditching, poor timber management, and converting much of the uplands to bahia pastures. Righting many of these past wrongs has become a primary focus of FWC and area managers.
Some of the many techniques area personnel use to aid in the management and restoration process include prescribed burning, mowing, roller chopping, and disking. Native plants and seeds as well as longleaf pines are planted on Half Moon to help expedite the restoration process. Grain crops like sorghum and millet are planted in disturbed areas as supplemental food and cover for wildlife in an otherwise barren pasture.
The Florida scrub-jay is a threatened and declining species that occurs sparingly on Half Moon. Scrub-jays rely on open scrubby habitat with patches of bare sand and 3-10 feet tall oak trees. Lack of fire made the oak stands too tall and dense for fire to penetrate. This area was chopped to allow fire to spread through it and to create the open habitat scrub-jays prefer. This was a short-term solution to the long-term goal of scrub-jay habitat management by fire alone.
Longleaf pine was the original dominant tree on the uplands and is thus the species used in reforestation on Half Moon. Past logging removed much of the old-growth longleaf pine, leaving slash, loblolly, and pond pine in the wetter, more inaccessible sites to which they were normally confined by fire. Aggressive fire-fighting efforts beginning in the late 1920s, inhibited the germination of longleaf pine and encouraged the spread of these species.
In cattle-grazed areas, flatwoods restoration is a challenge since cattle can trample and destroy seedlings and small trees. Cattle grazing, especially at the very low stocking rate of 24 acres per cow/calf unit found on Half Moon, does have some management advantages, however. Grazing sets back ecological succession to an earlier stage and reduces fuel in a way similar to prescribed burning. Cattle grazing also produces revenue and provides for the multiple use of public land.
Plant and animal monitoring and surveys are frequently conducted on Half Moon to assist area personnel in the management and hunt harvest recommendation process. These surveys help us understand if our management actions are producing the desired results.