Lochloosa Forest-Levy Prairie Connector
Rapid Ecological Project Assessment
Matrix Score: 8.18 of 9.44
Number of parcels: 43
Number of owners: 16
Number of buildings:12
The 8,294 acre Lochloosa
Forest-Levy Prairie Connector (LOC) Project is a series of inholdings within
the Lochloosa Wildlife Conservation Area (LWCA). It is located in the southeastern quarter of
The LOC Project is a combination of four projects from the Alachua County Ecological Inventory Project (KBN Study); Lochloosa Forest West ranked forth and is described as high priority, Lochloosa Forest Additions ranked ninth and is described as an above average priority, Prairie Creek ranked sixth and is described as a high priority, and Chacala Pond ranked fifteenth and is described as a slightly above average priority (KBN 1996). The purpose of the KBN Study was to identify, inventory, map, describe, and evaluate the most significant natural biological communities, both upland and wetland, that remain in private ownership in Alachua County and make recommendations for protecting these natural resources (KBN 1996).
The KBN Study summarizes the
Lochloosa Forest West Project by stating that, “This is an area of diverse
wetlands and uplands that has great wildlife habitat value. The single most
valuable endangered species location in the county, the Micanopy Cypress wood
The Lochloosa Forest
Additions Project is summarized in the KBN Study by the following paragraph, “This
site consists of three separate parcels which, if added to the lands protected
by the St. Johns River Water Management District, would add considerably to the
value of the overall conservation effort.
The northern most parcel, lying along the south side of SR 20, is an
important link between the
The Prairie Creek Project is
summarized in the KBN Study by the following paragraph, “This is the downstream
end of Prairie Creek where the creek reaches Paynes Prairie. It includes a bit
of the prairie basin, some of the creek and its floodplain swamp, some
magnificent hydric hammock with large live oaks, some partially-cleared pasture
areas, and an assortment of other habitats in small patches. It is currently
impacted by an assortment of large game animals that are kept there. It is an
important part of the connector linking the Paynes Prairie ecosystem to the
The KBN Study
summarizes the Chacala Pond Project by stating that, “Chacala Pond is part of a
chain of wetlands that is important to the wildlife communities of Paynes
Protecting Water Resources:
The LOC project is located
mostly in the perforated aquifer zone of
Johns River Water Management District’s (SJRWMD) Aquifer Recharge map for
Rayonier, Lybass and Franklin Crates tracts is into the River Styx and then
As part of
their 2003 Legislative Agenda,
Protecting Natural Communities and Landscapes:
Old Field Succession Pine
Low Impact Development
Old Field Pine
The above list of natural communities is from the KBN Report. The ecological quality of the natural communities is good overall.
The LOC Project is within the Lochloosa Wildlife Conservation Area (LWCA), and adjacent to Paynes Prairie. The acquisition of the LOC project would fill-in the gaps in the LWCA and assist Paynes Prairie to acquire their optimum boundary on the east side of the Prairie.
The project site is within the
Florida Ecological Greenways Network (FEGN), in the priority 3 project area
known as “Ocala NF-Lochloosa-Paynes Prairie-Newnans Lake”. This FEGN project is
the highest priority project in
The strategic location of the LOC
Project on the east side of the county within an existing corridor of natural
and silvicultural properties that form a large connected area for wildlife and
natural resource conservation, is one of
the critical features of this project.
The area is a mosaic of public and private lands. Protection of this corridor is one of the
best opportunities to protect and enhance natural resource values in our
county, and more importantly it is of regional importance as one of several
possible corridors that connect
Approximately 25% of the LOC project falls within a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area for wading birds. Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas were developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC). They are private lands containing habitats critical to the continued survival of populations of inadequately protected plants and animals (Cox et al. 2000). These lands are essential to providing some of state’s rarest animals, plants, and natural communities with the land base necessary to sustain populations into the future (Cox et al.1994).
Approximately seventy-five percent of the site falls within the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) priority four or five Habitat Conservation Priorities. FNAI’s Habitat Conservation Priorities prioritize places on the landscape that would protect both the greatest number of rare species and those species with the greatest conservation need (FNAI, June 2001).
About 20 % of the project area is
delineated as Pine flatwoods, an Under-represented Natural Community. Under-represented Natural Communities are
those natural community types that were inadequately represented on
conservation lands in
PROTECTING PLANT AND ANIMAL SPECIES:
Common Name Endemic/ Large Fed/State FCREPA/FNAI Observed
Home-Range Status Designation
Mud Sunfish -/- -/- -/S3 K
Eastern Tiger Salamander -/- -/- SU/S3 SM
Flatwoods Salamander -/- T/- R/S2S3 SM
Gopher Frog -/- -/SSC T/S3 SM,K,N
Striped Newt -/- -/- R/S2S3 SM
American Alligator -/- T/SSC -/S4 SM,K
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake -/- -/- -/S3 SM
Eastern Indigo Snake -/- T/T SSC/S3 SM,K
Gopher Tortoise -/- -/SSC T/S3 F,K,N,K
Peninsula Mole Skink -/- -/- -/- SM
Short-tailed Snake X/- -/T T/S3 SM
Spotted Turtle -/- -/- R/S3? SM
Black-Crowned Night Heron -/- -/- SSC/S3? SM
Black Rail -/- -/- R/S3 SM
Great Egret -/- -/- SSC/S4 SM,N
Least Bittern -/- -/- SSC/S4 SM
Limpkin -/- -/SSC SSC/S3 F,K
Little Blue Heron -/- -/SSC SSC/S4 SM,K
Osprey -/- -/- T/S3S4 SM,N
Mottled Duck -/- -/- -/- F
Snowy Egret -/- -/SSC SSC/S3 SM,K,N
Southeastern American Kestrel -/- -/T T/S3 F,K
Southern Bald Eagle -/L T/T T/S3 F,K,N
Swallow-tailed Kite -/L -/- T/S2 F,K
Tricolored Heron -/- -/SSC SSC/S4 SM,K
White Ibis -/- -/SSC SSC/S4 SM,K
Wild Turkey -/L F
Wood Stork -/- E/E E/S2 SM,K,N
Bobcat -/L -/- -/- F
Northern Yellow Bat -/- -/- SU/- SM
River Otter -/- -/- -/- SM
Round-tailed Muskrat X/- -/- SSC/S3 SM
X= Endemic, L=species with large home ranges according to the Closing the Gaps in Florida’s Wildlife Habitat System, S= observed by Alachua Co. EPD staff and/or an LCB subcommittee member, SM= documented on the Species Models maps created by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, F= Focal species used for the most detailed analyses in the Closing the Gaps in Florida’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation System, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, 1994, N= Florida Natural Areas Inventory Element Occurrence, P= potential for species based on habitat types, K=documented in the Alachua County Ecological Inventory Project.
The following listed plants were found on the property, yellow-fringed orchid, southern lady fern, pondspice, Catesby’s lily, royal fern, cinnamon fern, greenfly orchid and cardinal flower (KBN 1996).
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) data shows two bald
eagle nests on the project site and 14 others within 2 miles. The cluster of bald eagle nests around
About 90% of the site is within Regional Biodiversity Hotspots. The purpose of the Regional Biodiversity Hot Spots maps, developed by FFWCC, is to “convey more detailed information on the known locations of as many components of biological diversity as possible, regardless of whether or not they fall within proposed Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas, to help meet the need for conservation information at regional and local levels” (Cox et al. 1994).
Invasive exotic plants found on this property include, Japanese honeysuckle, alligator weed, camphor trees, Chinese tallow, Japanese climbing fern, perpetual begonia, hydrilla and water hyacinth (KBN 1996).
As a whole the LOC project area is in good condition and will require prescribed burning and some invasive plant control to enhance the natural resources. Access for management is very good and it is well suited for burning.
Achieving Social and Human Values:
Approximately 70% of the LOC area falls within Priority one through four Natural Resource-based Recreation Areas (Knight, et al. 2000), and it is a priority 3 Ecological Greenway. The Natural Resource-based Recreation map was developed by FNAI in collaboration with DEP, FFWCC and DOF. The recreation potential of a site depends on available road access, presence of a water body or beach, proximity to urban areas, and size of the site. “These criteria were applied to Potential Natural Areas delineated by FNAI using aerial photography and revised using the 1995 Water Management District land cover data. Sites were ranked by recreation potential” (Knight, et al. 2000).
The LOC Project is part of the
Emerald Necklace Land Conservation Initiative – “a publicly accessible,
connected, and protected network of trails, greenways, open space, and
waterfronts surrounding the
The project would fill-in gaps in the LWCA, and expand the Paynes Prairie boundary, thus providing a larger contiguous area for recreational activities, and perhaps facilitate additional activities. The LOC Project provides excellent opportunities for compatible resource based recreation.
Economics & Acquisition:
There are 43 parcels and 16 ownerships in the 8,294 acre Lochloosa Forest-Levy Prairie Connector Project. The Alachua County Property Appraiser (ACPA) shows twelve buildings on their parcel data. The ACPA’s 2002 Just Value or land value for the entire project is $8,076,800 or $974/ acre. The ACPA’s total value (Just, Miscellaneous and Building) for the project area is $9,020,000 or $1,088/ acre. These figures are for comparative purposes between nominated properties, and are not necessarily an accurate reflection of the true cost of the property if acquired by the Alachua County Forever Program.
The LOC project is a series of inholdings in the Lochloosa Wildlife Conservation Area. All of the parcels are on the state park’s Acquisitions and Inholdings list or within the Florida Forever Lochloosa Wildlife project. All of the parcels should be considered keystone parcels. Map 3 shows the ownerships within the LOC project.
The Lybass, Rayonier and Franklin Crates tracts are within the Lochloosa Wildlife Florida Forever Project. The project is on the “B” List under the “Small Parcels Projects” heading. This is defined as those acquisition projects that are important, but not of the highest priority, which are made up predominantly of small ownerships with individual values not exceeding one million dollars each, or individual acquisitions that are determined to achieve the Florida Forever goals, measures and criteria enough to qualify for acquisition but are valued at less than one million dollars. Florida Forever will contribute 45% of the purchase price. The SJRWMD is listed as an acquisition partner on the project, but they are not willing to pursue the project without the county’s assistance.
The project site falls within unincorporated
Aucott, W. 1988. Water Resources Investigation Report 88-4057. USGS.
Cox, J., R. Kautz, M. MacLaughlin, and T. Gilbert.
1994. Closing the Gaps in
Cox, J. and R. Kautz. 2000. Habitat Conservation Needs of
Rare and Imperiled Wildlife in
Hoctor, T.S., J. Teisinger, M.G. Carr., P.C, Zwick. 2002.
Identification of Critical Linkages Within the
Knight, G., A. Knight, and J. Oetting. 2000. Florida Forever
Conservation Needs Assessment Summary Report to the Florida Forever Advisory
KBN, A Golder Associates Company. 1996.
Macesich, M. 1988.
Geologic Interpretation of the Aquifer Pollution Potential in