Tenoroc - Habitat and Management
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. Before extensive phosphate mining began in the 1960s, the eastern portion of Tenoroc was part of a large wetland system at the headwaters of Saddle Creek, the upper-most tributary of the Peace River. The western portion of Tenoroc was part of a wetland system associated with Lake Parker.
When the state purchased the site, virtually all but 17 percent of the native habitats that originally existed at Tenoroc were severely impacted and extensively altered by the phosphate mining operations that occurred in this portion of Polk County beginning in the 1940s. Mining disrupted natural drainage patterns by eliminating original wetlands and impounding water in retention areas such as pit lakes and clay settling ponds. Sand tailings were left behind as spoil mounds, creating berms and ridges.
Agricultural and silvicultural activities also had severe impacts on the area’s habitats and landforms, including the conversion of longleaf pine flatwoods into improved pastures and citrus groves. Large acreages were clear-cut for timber or stumped for naval stores in the past and are now dominated by undesirable nuisance and nonnative vegetation. There were also areas that were not mined but which were impacted by mining operations. These impacts resulted in habitat conversion to hardwood forests and dense stands of palmetto.
On spoil mounds in the mined areas, live oak, cabbage palm, red maple, sweet gum and wax myrtle became established. Several undisturbed areas of pine flatwoods, swamps and xeric oak are located in the Saddle Creek Tract and in scattered spots elsewhere. Seventeen imperiled animal species and two imperiled plant species (Garberia and scrub pinweed) are known to occur on the area.
Tenoroc is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The site demonstrates the results of intensive management and restoration and nature’s regenerative powers. Tenoroc’s well-managed habitats contribute clean water to the Peace River, create an important refuge for wildlife and serve as a quality destination for recreation. Pit lakes have been transformed into quality fishing lakes and steep-sided spoil mounds have created wooded hills for hiking and horseback riding.
Significant reforestation activities have been conducted throughout the area. Hundreds of acres were planted to create upland and wetland forest on the eastern, central and western portions of Tenoroc as part of the Upper Peace River/Saddle Creek Restoration Project. In addition, several hundred acres of pine flatwoods and other upland forest communities have been planted using easement fees and other funding sources. More upland restoration projects are scheduled over the next few years.Existing stands of fire-adapted native vegetation are managed through prescribed burning conducted by staff from FWC, FDEP and/or the Florida Forest Service. Prescribed fire is also used to maintain open areas utilized by ground nesting birds, control the spread of invasive non-native plants, create small, diverse patches of habitat that better serve wildlife, and to prepare areas for native plantings.
Initial hydrological restoration work involved the construction of numerous water control and drainage structures throughout the property to improve flows between the lakes and wetlands and to increase water storage capacity on the property. Restoration will continue in the future to improve the long-term health of the watershed.
The fishing resources available to the public are abundant and diverse, with a total of 29 managed lakes on the property. The un-reclaimed and reclaimed lakes range in size from five to 242 acres. Fisheries management involves the use of restrictive harvest regulations on game fish species and control of angler fishing effort. Regulations include minimum lengths, protected length ranges, reduced bag limits, gear restrictions, trophy bass restrictions, and catch-and-release provisions. These prevent over-harvesting of game fish and maintain quality fishing opportunities.
Nonnative and invasive plant species known to occur on Tenoroc include Brazilian pepper, camphor tree, cogongrass, rattlebox, tongue-tree, water hyacinth, hydrilla and water lettuce. Managers remove these species and replant with native vegetation where appropriate.
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.