Cypress Lakes Preserve is a Hernando County Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL) project. The property was purchased by Hernando County in 1995 and 1998 with funding from the ESL program and Florida Communities Trust using Preservation 2000 funds. The 331 acre preserve includes a mosaic of seven or eight upland and wetland communities, including about 85 acres of sand hill and about 70 acres of oak scrub, oak/saw palmetto scrub, and scrubby flatwoods, with interspersed open, grassy seasonal ponds.
Despite best intentions and efforts to use fire as a regular management technique, several conditions prevented adequate application of fire to the landscape in recent years. Predictably, hardwoods (predominantly live oak, laurel oak, Chapman’s oak and black cherry) rapidly overtook the scrub and sand hill communities, with sand live oaks and laurel oaks replacing myrtle oaks and Chapman’s oaks in the scrub, and laurel oak, black cherry, and Chapman’s oak invading the sand hills. Because of the scarcity and importance of these vegetation communities, the management plans for Cypress Lakes Preserve include restoration of scrub and sand hill communities on about half the preserve (about 155 acres). The essential needs were firebreaks, hardwood reduction, and fire. About 5,800 linear feet of firebreak were cleared around the perimeter. Hardwood control was conducted over a three year period on most of the 155 acre restoration area. The overgrown area was “treated” by cutting down brush and oak trees using machinery and chain saws, supplemented with hand saw and chainsaw work by volunteers, plus chainsaw and herbicide work by county staff.. These treatments were followed by a controlled burn in May 2013. The burn consumed much of the downed wood, exposed bare mineral soil, top-killed most of the remaining large hardwood trees, and stimulated amazing new growth, including many herbaceous species not commonly seen there before. The transformation is amazing, and done on a minimal budget.
You'll get to see these areas and see the management that the County is using to improve the ecological quality of these lands. This is a joint trip with Hernando -- Mark Hutchinson has been coordinating and Hernando has arranged a very special field leader, Jim King, who is a Hernando County Conservation Lands Specialist.