The expedition spent yesterday, April 9th, at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Middleburg, Florida. Yesterday our team met with Land Component Commander Brigadier General Richard Gallant to discuss Camp Blanding and its approach to conservation. FFWCC Director Nick Wiley came from Tallahassee to meet with us, as did FFWCC research biologists Walt McCown and Brian Scheick.
Our conversations with Brig. General Gallant and Director Wiley focused on the cooperative relationship between the military and natural resource conservation agencies. We discussed the habitat on the facility, and how the base fits into a regional conservation corridor known as the Ocala to Osceola Corridor, or the “0-2-0.” This project is designed to connect Ocala National Forest with the Osceola National Forest. The 73,000 acres of Camp Blanding is the largest block of conservation land in the 0-2-0. Paul Catlett, the land manager at Blanding, discussed the military’s vested interest in managing habitat for wildlife. The same habitat ensures the quality of military and first responder training, and so serves both an environmental interest and a domestic interest.
Species of note on Camp Blanding include the red-cockaded woodpecker and the Florida black bear. Paul Catlett and Jim Garrison, FFWCC’s biologist on Blanding, have overseen a dramatic improvement in the number of red cockaded woodpecker clusters. The project has been such a success that Camp Blanding is now a donor site in the Southern Range Translocation Cooperative (SRTC) that began in 1998.