Suwannee and Branford High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) members got some hands-on experience in forestry practices recently by assisting Suwannee River Water Management District (District) staff in planting wiregrass seedlings at Peacock Slough, located in southwest Suwannee County.
The students were invited to participate by the District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and The Wildlife Society, who all have entered into a cost-share agreement to fund the project.
“The goal of the project is to restore degraded forestry communities, and the land that we are focusing on in Peacock Slough is a sandhill area, which is a high priority restoration area,” said District Environmental Specialist Beau Willsey. “Planting the wiregrass will facilitate more successful prescribed burns that keep the forests healthy.”
Willsey explained that wiregrass is a native, warm-season grass that serves as a predominant fuel for prescribed fires, which are the most economically and environmentally friendly method to manage forest health.
Jimmy Wilkerson, agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor at BHS, was proud to be a part of the project and hopes that his students understand the value of their efforts.
“They’re helping preserve the land so future generations can enjoy it,” said Wilkerson. “I’m glad the state’s taking the initiative to do this and we could participate. I didn’t have to twist any arms; the students were all excited and willing to come. They just enjoy doing this.”