CHANGING THE LOCAL SCENERY BY RESTORING THE COAST
B.J. Hall-Scharf, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County, Brooksville, Florida and W.J. Lester, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County, Brooksville, Florida.
Situation: In 2015, Hernando County updated its Noxious Plant Control ordinance to require removal of lead tree (Leucaena leucocephala) and Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolia) within the county. These invasive species can be detrimental to native vegetation. To date, the County has removed 4,367 lead trees and 1,212 Brazilian pepper trees; additional removals are scheduled. Removing these trees from coastal areas can lead to shoreline erosion. Prompt reestablishment of native vegetation is necessary at the removal sites to provide important ecosystem services such as storm protection, pollution filtration, and wildlife habitat. Methods: Florida Sea Grant, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County and Master Gardeners partnered with Hernando High School’s Agricultural instructor to select and grow native coastal vegetation for the County’s designated removal sites. The Future Farmers of America’s (FFA) Living to Serve grant was secured in support of the project. Additional funds and supplies were donated by clubs and businesses. These funds were used to purchase additional plants and supplies needed to generate enough landscape material to restore a minimum of ten sites along Hernando County’s coast. Results: To date a total of 700 plants have been propagated by students at Hernando High School for the project. The school’s FFA students have donated approximately 500 hours towards caring for the plants, which represents an economic impact of $11,350 to the county. Ten sites will be restored beginning in April 2018, including locations where the exotic, invasive trees had been removed per the county’s ordinance. Members of the community, including Hernando County Master Gardeners, FFA members, Florida Master Naturalists and others will assist with restoring the first restoration sites, located at Hernando County parks. Conclusion: By taking the lead in education and planning, Extension can play an important role in bringing together community groups to accomplish worthy research based environmental goals.