Environment

“Off Road” experience on Florida National Scenic Trail

Photography By ALICE MARY HERDEN

Hikers and Nature Photographers on the FNST at Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area

The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) guides hikers through portions of Hernando County including the Cypress Lakes Preserve and the Withlacoochee State Forest (Croom). Its newest addition takes hikers through the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area (CWEA).

Preparations began over a year ago on this section of the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST), re-routing trails along the roadway into the wildness type environment within the CWEA, more visually inspiring for hikers.

The Saw Palmetto

by JIM DAVIS

Jim Davis is the Multi-County Extension Director for UF/IFAS Sumter County and Hernando County Extension and a Florida Master Naturalist Instructor.

Two color forms of the native saw palmetto. The silver saw palmetto on the left and the more common green on the right.  Photo by Jim Davis

The Saw Palmetto or Serenoa repens is without a doubt one of the most underutilized of landscape palms. Many homeowners select statuesque palms such as washingtonia palms, Sylvester palms, mule palms and the not so recommended queen palm. Tall palm species such as these can certainly make a statement in the landscape. However, consider adding another layer of palm diversity. The saw palmetto can grow to an average height of about five to six feet. They can grow to ten feet, but it would take a very long time for that to happen.

2017 Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Eastern Phoebe perches at Lakewood Retreat during the yearly Christmas bird count.

On Dec. 14, 2017 the 118th annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count took place in Hernando County. Birders of all ages participated in the dawn to dusk count. Nationwide counts take place between Thursday Dec. 14, 2017 and Friday Jan. 5, 2018. The Christmas Bird Count was started by Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of the predecessor to Audubon Magazine as a way to promote conservation during Christmastime. Instead of hunting birds, he urged people to count them.

Habitats for Kestrels

Photos by Alice Mary Herden.

Bird box building for the Southeastern American Kestel.

Brendan O’Connor, the Southwest Regional Volunteer Coordinator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) led a group of local volunteers, which included students from an Odessa private school in building some rather large birdhouses at the Chinsegut Conservation Center last week.

In 2009, the FWC initiated a nest box monitoring program in north-central Florida to expand nesting opportunities for Southeastern American Kestrels (SEAK).

Hernando Beach Shallow Reef Project

The Hernando County Port Authority in cooperation with the Aquatics Services Department deployed more reef balls off the shore of Hernando Beach last Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.

The reef locations are only seven miles offshore, in fairly clear water. Due to the close proximity to shore, and the Weeki Wachee and Hernando Beach boat ramps, the reefs are anticipated to provide an immediate benefit to anglers, as well as recreational and educational benefits to divers and students.

CCA Florida donates five tons of oyster shells for habitat restoration in Hernando County

by Hernando Co. Gov.

(Brooksville, FL) Earlier this year, the Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA) joined efforts with area restaurants to recycle oyster shells for habitat enhancement. On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, the CCA donated five tons of these recycled oyster shells for a habitat enhancement project at Centipede Bay, located in Hernando County's coastal waters.

Oyster reef project grant agreement approved by commission

Brittany Hall Scharf, Sea Grant Agent for Hernando County holds a tile full of juvenile oysters, part of the pilot oyster restoration project.  Photo by Hernando Co. Gov.

On Sept. 26, 2017, the Board of County Commissioners approved a grant agreement with FDEP’s Florida Coastal Management Program for an oyster and marsh grass habitat restoration project. The project location is just north of Hernando Beach, in Centipede Bay.

Aquatic Services Director Keith Kolasa stated, “The reason why we picked this area is because there’s not a lot of fish habitat in Centipede Bay… There’s a lot of sand there, scattered seagrass… That’s why we’re focusing on this area, to allow fishing and wildlife enhancement near Hernando Beach.”

$50 million from the state for springs across Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Water Management Districts have identified 40 springs projects that will receive $50 million as part of the 2017-2018 state budget. While none of the 40 projects appear to be in Hernando County, there are projects in neighboring counties that have been funded. Hernando County did receive a $400,000 allocation for a Weeki Wachee River channel restoration project which does not seem to be part of 40 projects.