A timbering project is now underway at Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida’s (GSSEF) Camp Nocatee in Clewiston, Florida. This project began on August 28 and will include the removal of all dead pine trees as well as the selective harvesting of trees including both pine and cypress trees.
On Friday, June 14, a Timbering subcommittee met at Camp Nocatee to evaluate the condition of the forest and determine the best and most viable action to take. The committee, which is led by GSSEF Vice President of Operations, Cindy McHeran, includes a member of our board of directors and a community member, both of whom are actively involved in land preservation. Additionally, a Senior Forester from the Florida Forest Service was also part of the committee, along with our Camp Nocatee Ranger, Rich Roth.
The committee made several observations during an extensive tour of the property. Among their findings:
• The density of the overgrown forest is preventing sunlight to appropriately penetrate the canopy. The trees are stressed by the overcrowding and have become increasingly susceptible to disease. Many trees are dying or have already died, and many others are showing signs of beetle damage.
• The current conditions of the forest are inhibiting the native wildlife and are also restricting access to large sections of our property by our members.
• Timbering on the Camp Nocatee property is the best course of action to take to return the forest to a healthy state. The management of the property following the timbering project will allow for a healthy regrowth of the forest, a healthier and more viable habitat for our wildlife, and greater access to the property by Girl Scouts.
Following their visit, the committee solicited and received proposals for the timbering project from three forestry management companies. The committee then presented their findings to the GSSEF Board of Directors at their August 5 meeting and provided their recommendation based on the proposals received. The board of directors approved the proposal.
Q&A Regarding the Timbering Project at Camp Nocatee
Why was timbering considered at Camp Nocatee?
We were growing increasingly concerned about the forest conditions at Camp Nocatee. While we have removed some of the Brazilian Pepper, there are many dead or dying trees on the property. We worked with experts from the state’s Forest Service as well as community members with experience in land management and preservation. They helped us reach the conclusion that timbering was our best course of action.
What is the impact on the property if we had not embarked on a timbering project?
The primary challenge at this time is the overcrowding of the forest. As a result of the density, sunlight is not able to penetrate the canopy and give the forest what it needs. The trees have exhibited signs of stress due to the overcrowding. Some have already died and others are dying. The trees are very susceptible to disease, and many have already shown signs of beetle damage. Additionally, the current conditions at Camp Nocatee have inhibited our native wildlife and have restricted the use of much of the property by our girls.
Will the project involve the removal of all trees?
No. The project has two specific elements. The first is the removal of what are known as Pine Tree Lighter Stumps. These are already dead pine trees that may still be standing or have fallen, but that have resin or sap inside them which is petrified. The resin is converted into material which is used in the production of many products.
The second element of the project will include the selective harvesting of trees to reduce the crowding of the forest. The population of pine and cypress trees will be thinned out. The harvested trees will be used to produce both mulch and lumber.
Are there any trees on the property that will not be considered for removal?
Yes. All Laurel Oaks and Live Oaks will remain on the property. We will also leave a buffer area of forest around all of the units, and these areas will also include pine trees.
What will the property look like during/after the timbering?
Areas of the property will be much barer and rough looking. Visitors to the property will also be able to see more of the property than they ever have before. Keep in mind that reforestation will begin pretty quickly, so the committee will be working to manage the regrowth in the best possible way.
Will Camp Nocatee be open during the timbering project?
Yes. Camp Nocatee will remain open to campers and events during the project. No timbering will take place on weekends, which is when most visitors are using the property. Any equipment that remains on site will be secured and inaccessible to campers.
What about the wildlife? How will they be impacted by the timbering project?
Our land preservation experts assure us that the native wildlife will adapt as the timbering happens. Since small areas will be done at a time, much of the wildlife will simply move out of the area of timbering and move back when it is complete. While Camp Nocatee is located on one square mile of land, there is ample space for wildlife to go both on the camp property and in the surrounding area. We will mark all Gopher Tortoise burrows, and all timbering equipment will operate in such a way to avoid these burrows.
Will GSSEF receive any monies from the timbering project?
Yes. Through our contract with the forestry management companies, GSSEF will receive compensation for each element of the project. We will receive compensation for each ton of Pine Tree Lighter Stumps removed and each truckload of the selectively harvested trees. We will not know the total compensation for the project until it is complete.
How long will the project take?
We are not sure. The project is underway as of August 28, but there are several factors that will impact the project, including the safety of Gopher Tortoise burrows, buffering around all units, and the selective harvesting rather than clearing of trees.
Who should we call if we have questions about the project?
Questions about the timbering project should be directed to Cindy McHeran, vice president of operations. Cindy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-427-0179.