New UF/IFAS book offers insights on managing large residential lots

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A big yard or vacation property can be a great asset to a family, offering plenty of room for sports, recreation and relaxation.

But taking care of an acre or two, or 10 or 20, involves more than just buying a riding mower.

So the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has just published a handbook designed to help people with large, forested residential properties understand their land management options.

“Your Backyard Woods and Wildlife” is available for $18 from

The 164-page book explains the basics of Florida’s ecosystems, delves into ways of earning extra income from forestland, and tells where to turn for more information and advice.

The book was in development for close to a decade, and fills an important niche in Florida, said editor Chris Demers, a forester with UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

“We’ve been approached by a number of people who suggested we do something like this,” Demers said.

He explained that in recent years many commercial properties have been subdivided into jumbo-sized residential lots, and purchased by people with no prior experience in land management.

To help them get their bearings, “Your Backyard Woods and Wildlife” is divided into three sections:

The first, “What You Have,” is devoted to common Florida ecosystems and their features, threats to forest health, and Florida wildlife – both native and invasive species.

The second, “What You Can Do” is the book’s centerpiece. It covers land management basics, the role water plays in forest ecosystems, strategies for creating wildlife habitat, landscape planning, ways to reduce wildfire risk, how to improve forest health, managing trees for timber production, and ideas for earning income from recreation, ecotourism and other activities.

The final section, “Resources,” includes contact information for state and federal agencies, as well as nonprofit and private organizations that offer assistance to landowners.

Even Florida residents on quarter-acre lots could benefit from the book, Demers said. The sections on Florida ecosystems, the water cycle, butterfly gardening, fire risk and wildlife habitat are relevant to virtually any home.

Demers said he’d also like to develop an education program bringing lessons from the book to workshops, field days and other events.

“Your Backyard Woods and Wildlife” was funded by UF/IFAS, the Florida Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Renewable Resources Extension Act. Demers edited the book along with colleagues Alan Long, a professor emeritus, and Annie Oxarart, a research programs and services coordinator at the forest resources school.



Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567,

Source: Chris Demers, 352-514-0819,


Posted: July 24, 2012

Category: Agriculture, Conservation, Forests

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