FWC planting trees, enhancing Lake Okeechobee habitat
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is planting approximately 1,500 native trees in the northwest marsh of Lake Okeechobee beginning this week.
This new habitat addition, which is a continuation of seven years of planting efforts, is designed to enhance the marsh’s native plant community, while providing woody structure for nesting and roosting birds.
Records from the early 20th century indicate that bald cypress trees were prevalent throughout portions of Lake Okeechobee. These large and abundant cypress trees were essential nesting habitat for wading bird colonies. However, logging activities, wildfires, hydrologic changes and cattle grazing have eliminated most of the trees from the lake.
In 2015, the FWC began replanting native trees in Lake Okeechobee’s northwest marsh. Since then, over 17,000 trees and shrubs have been planted. Although bald cypress has been the most common tree planted, at least 22 other native tree and shrub species, including pond apple, red maple and cabbage palm, have been included in planting efforts.
The addition of trees and fruit-bearing shrubs to the northwest marsh has increased nesting and foraging opportunities for local bird and wildlife communities, including the endangered Everglades snail kite. By planting the trees at different elevations throughout the marsh, the project aims to increase nesting and foraging opportunities for local bird communities at multiple lake levels.
Management activities, such as aquatic plant management, prescribed burns and native plant transplanting, help improve habitat for fish, waterfowl, wading birds and other wildlife populations, while also allowing improved recreational opportunities for anglers, boaters and hunters. These activities are part of an integrated management approach used by the FWC on many lakes and wetlands throughout Florida.
For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lakes.
The FWC, with its partners, continually works together to enhance and restore fish and wildlife habitat in Florida. For more information about the FWC’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration projects, visit MyFWC.com/AquaticHabitat.