Chinsegut - Habitat and Management
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. The primary habitat types at Chinsegut WEA are upland pine forest, sandhill, mesic hammock and basin marsh. Smaller areas of basin swamp, bottomland forest, mesic flatwoods and upland hardwood forest are also present. Chinsegut preserves one of the few remaining stands of intact old-growth longleaf pine in Florida. The unique character of this pine forest and the variety of other natural communities support a diversity of associated wildlife including common native plants and wildlife, as well as rare and imperiled species such as the gopher tortoise, Eastern indigo snake, wood stork and Sherman’s fox squirrel. Rare plants include Atamasco lily, Florida mountain-mint, Florida spiny-pod, milk-vine, stalked adder’s tongue and Treat’s rain-lily.
Chinsegut’s actively managed natural communities include upland pine forest, sandhill, mesic hammock and basin marsh. Habitat management is an ongoing process and various stages of restoration are represented at Chinsegut. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps planted bald cypress on the northern shoreline of May’s Prairie to provide nesting habitat for wading birds. Fire was excluded from the property from the 1930s when the federal government acquired the property until the 1970s when the FWC began prescribed burning to restore the sandhill.
The primary management activities include thinning, prescribed fire and control of invasive nonnative vegetation. Disturbed or degraded bottomland hardwood sites are allowed to reforest naturally with native wetland oaks, hardwoods and other native plants. To restore natural hydrological functions to the area, low-water crossings and culverts are installed and maintained. FWC works with the Southwest Florida Water Management District to monitor surface and groundwater quality.
Staff regularly conduct wildlife monitoring on Chinsegut. Projects include a yearly spring breeding bird survey, Southeastern American kestrel nest box monitoring and maintenance of four bat houses that are home to several hundred Brazilian free-tailed bats.
In addition to the management work described here, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rely on a wide range of techniques to ensure that natural areas throughout the state stay healthy for wildlife and inviting to visitors.