Restoration of the Wetlands
By Nan Mattingly, CREW Trust Volunteer
So how do you restore a wetland? First, you study the proposed land to see if it is still functioning as a wetland. If it’s not, you remove structures (houses, roads, bridges, berms) built on the land that interfere with the natural flow of water. You also must remove a lot of debris like fences, toilets, tires, appliances, and boats just to name a few. The South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the CREW Trust have put thousands of hours into cleaning up CREW Flint Pen Strand (FPS).
To prepare and carry out an effective restoration, you need to know the history of the land. Are there any irreversible changes in the wetlands? You must figure out how to go around them or work with them to achieve your goal of a functioning wetland. You should also consider the causes of the degradation of a wetland and address those. There is no use restoring the wetland if it’s going to revert to its malfunctioning state.
You also must think ahead. Are there any plans by local, state, or federal government or private landowners that would affect your wetland? Not only do you have to study the wetland itself to figure out how to repair it, but you also must consider the surrounding area and what impact the restoration may have on neighboring property.
Then decide what your objectives are for the newly restored wetland. At FPS, the goals were to restore some of the original pathways for flowing water; restore the ecosystem because native trees and plants naturally help slow the water, giving it more time to soak into the aquifer; provide natural flood protection; and identify and protect habitat that is crucial for the wildlife that live there. Florida panthers and have been spotted at FPS and because they need thousands of acres to roam, I’m sure they appreciate the forests and saw palmetto habitats that support their primary food source, white-tailed deer, at FPS.
Finally, you monitor the success of your restoration project and maintain for the long term.
Restoring a wetland is a complex process and the SFWMD continues to work hard at FPS. Part of the process at FPS has been the removal of non-native and invasive species. If you hike the red trail and come across a forest of spooky-looking trees, many of them lying on the ground, you’ll see the results of killing hundreds of invasive melaleuca trees. With their papery white bark, the dead melaleucas look like a forest of ghosts. In addition, CREW volunteers have assisted with the removal of invasive plants such as caesar weed and earleaf acacia (a never-ending job). Consistent stewardship can only succeed with collaboration and community support. The ongoing long-term success of the CREW project is a result of many hands-on deck, especially from people like you. The support you give through membership and donations secures the future of this project and others for generations to come.