Restoring critical habitat.
The Land Management Program focuses on managing and restoring habitats on the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve, the Altamaha River Corridor and in areas of Florida and Alabama where Eastern Indigo Snake reintroduction efforts are focused, such as Conecuh National Forest in Alabama, the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida and The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in Florida. The Land Management Team is based at the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve in Telfair County, Georgia, and works with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and many private landowners across the Altamaha and Ocmulgee Rivers corridor, implementing land management practices that benefit longleaf pine forests, Eastern Indigo Snakes, and Gopher Tortoises.
Using our prescribed fire team
A large component of the Land Management and Restoration Program is our Prescribed Fire Team which works with a variety of partners to restore and manage critical habitat such as longleaf pine. Fire is the key to restoring the remaining fragments of the longleaf pine ecosystem. The southern United States experiences more lightning than any other part of North America. Historically, in late spring and early summer, particularly in La Niña years, lightning-ignited wildfire burned large areas of the region on a frequent (1-10 year interval) basis. This seasonal phenomenon occurred because sporadic, convective thunderstorms coincided with dry vegetation, and the resultant fires were driven by winds associated with continental fronts. These fires spread until sufficient rain had fallen or they encountered natural barriers. Consequently, most of the native flora and fauna, including many wetland species, depend on frequent and seasonal fire to stimulate viable fruiting, and to provide habitat suitable for their survival.
Fire is as essential as soil, water, and air to maintaining the savannah character of a naturally-functioning and biologically diverse longleaf pine ecosystem. Today, prescribed fire or controlled burning is applied to mimic this natural process, and mitigate the risks associated with wildfire on the present landscape. The Land Management Program is partnering with public and private landowners throughout the range of Eastern Indigo Snakes by providing the necessary resources to restore this essential process on conservation lands.
Using best restoration practices
Restoration of longleaf pine communities that have been converted to other land uses requires intensive management to make them suitable habitat for Eastern Indigo Snakes. The practice of ecological restoration involves both forestry and farming techniques to re-establish the components and function of the native ecosystems.
Areas converted for industrial pine production that still have fairly intact groundcover, and little soil disturbance, may only require thinning the trees and reintroducing fire. Eventually, new longleaf pines would be planted over time. On the other hand, sites developed for agriculture would require the elimination of non-native plant species using herbicides. After the non-native plans are removed, the Land Management Team collects site-appropriate native groundcover seed from recently burned sites and then "drills" this seed into the restoration site. Sites restored from agricultural uses require continuous monitoring and treatment for re-infestation by non-native plants.
Once the desired ground cover plant species have become established, a judicious application of fire is needed to perpetuate those plants. Appropriate shrub species and longleaf pine are planted, and sites in relatively good condition require vigilant monitoring for infestations of non-native invasive plant species. Feral hog control is also important to habitat management and restoration, and to limit depredation on indigo snakes and young gopher tortoises.