Arbor Day Foundation - 2021 Forest of Greatest Need


Location

Econfina Creek and Chipola River Watersheds, Florida (Bay, Calhoun, and Washington Counties)

Why

Econfina creek is largely spring-fed and is the primary potable water source for Bay County, providing water to the cities of Panama City, Panama City Beach, Parker, Callaway, and Lynn Haven and nearby unincorporated areas. Econfina Creek is designated by the State of Florida as a Class I Waterbody (Potable Water Supply), which mandates the highest level of surface water protection in Florida. The Chipola River watershed is a Class III Waterbody and a designated Outstanding Florida Water (OFW).

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael passed through this area and destroyed thousands of acres of standing timber. Both the Econfina Creek and Chipola River watersheds were heavily impacted, and the eye of the hurricane passed across the Chipola River (Altha Tract) pine stands that are targeted for reforestation in 2021.

Planting longleaf and slash pines and restoring native groundcover will provide a landscape similar to the natural conditions that occurred at the time of European settlement in this area. Longleaf pine trees in particular will resist water beetles, better tolerate wildfire and wind events, and require less water.

Restoration provides forage for game and promotes native groundcover, wildflowers and other plants. Species directly benefiting are deer, turkey, bobwhite quail, Sherman's fox squirrel, and gopher tortoise. Additional benefits occur to aquatic species including fish, amphibians, clams and mussels, shoal bass and cave crayfish.

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