Alachua Conservation Trust plans to devote its most recent grant to the protection of one of the nation’s most endangered ecosystems: the Longleaf pine population.
The $300,000 award, provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will be used by the non-profit organization to educate private landowners about better managing their properties and, subsequently, improving the habitats of wildlife that live there, said Alachua Conservation Trust executive director Tom Kay.
“It’s incredibly critical because, frankly, without this funding in place, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Kay said.
He said the grant will ensure that the roughly 450 wildlife species belonging to the Longleaf habitat, such as Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, indigo snakes and pine snakes, continue to have a home.
The funds will also be devoted to the restoration and development of Alachua and Marion County’s Longleaf pine population, which he said has drastically declined over time.
Barry Coulliette, Alachua Conservation Trust’s private lands stewardship specialist, said the funding will also allow their organization to continue teaching local landowners about prescribed burning, a technique in which wildfires are deliberately started for forest management purposes.
The procedure is intended to help restart the life cycle of certain plant species and remove dead materials from the ground, he said.
Coulliette said Alachua Conservation Trust holds training workshops throughout the year to teach landowners how to safely and properly execute a prescribed burn.
“We’re all about preserving natural land for future generations to be able to enjoy,” he said.