Arbor Day Foundation names District a finalist for national award

HAVANA – The Arbor Day Foundation named the Northwest Florida Water Management District a finalist for its Headwaters award, given annually to celebrate innovative programs that support the improvement of water quality and quantity through forestry activities.

The Arbor Day Foundation also named Friends of the Rappahannock (Fredericksburg, Va.) and Team Williamette (Portland, Ore.) as finalists for the Headwaters award.

The winner will be announced prior to National Arbor Day on April 26.

“It is certainly nice to see our reforestation efforts recognized at the national level because we take a lot of pride in knowing how planting trees protects the water resources for residents in our District,” said John Alter, Secretary of the District’s Governing Board. “The Arbor Day Foundation’s partnership has allowed us to expand our planting program in recent years and we appreciate that relationship.”

The District was nominated for the award following the planting of its 15 millionth longleaf pine tree on public lands last winter. The District began planting longleaf pines and other native species in 1993 and will put another 1.4 million trees in the ground in 2019.

The longleaf, loblolly, and slash pines as well as natural hardwoods are critical pieces of northern Florida ecosystems. The trees’ presence helps improve plant species diversity and provides wildlife habitat for animal and insect species. They also provide erosion control and natural fuel for effective prescribed burns.

“A healthy forest means healthy water,” said Ted Everett, a member of the District’s Governing Board who represents Washington County. “We live in an area that saw thousands and thousands and thousands of trees destroyed by Hurricane Michael, so it’s even more important to replant trees this year to try to offset some of that devastation.”

Once this year’s plantings are completed, the District’s reforestation efforts break down like this:

  • 16.5 million longleaf pine trees
  • 1.6 million other trees (including 695,489 cypress and other hardwoods)
  • 6.6 million wiregrass tublings
  • 30,784 total acres with plantings

Funding for the forest restoration program comes largely from state support and through the District's timber sales as well as other grants, including from the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

In the last five years, the Arbor Day Foundation has contributed $312,020 which has bought more than 2.2 million longleaf tublings.