Renewing beauty, Enhancing Function
The HPS property possesses a rural beauty and charm, characterized by rolling hills and ridges interspersed with lower elevations harboring the New River, its tributaries, and a variety of wetlands. It is picturesque as well as productive; the dominant use of the property is improved pasture and coniferous plantation, but smaller portions have also been used for row crops and other agriculture purposes. Wetlands and other surface waters also constitute a considerable amount of the property.
Following mining, the character of this land will be restored and it will provide enhanced habitat and ecological functions.
All of the wetlands and surface waters on the property were evaluated using the Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) in collaboration with, and approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. UMAM is a system that evaluates the ecological value of land forms to determine the amount and type of mitigation that is needed to offset any adverse impacts. UMAM scores of existing communities on the HPS property varied because of natural features of the property and its agricultural uses. Using the data and rationale that went into calculating scores for the existing property, the HPS team crafted a reclamation plan that will enhance the overall functional value of the same communities.
One of the ways the ecological function of the property will be improved deals with the excavation of waterbodies to create ditches. Ditches are a commonly used agricultural tool to straighten or deepen existing waterways, or even construct new ones, to change water flows and accommodate a desired land use. Berms are often associated with this practice and are used in similar ways. During reclamation, ditches and berms will be removed from the mined area, with the goal of restoring natural hydrology in the area.
Another is improvements that will be made to the New River corridor. This area will be improved with the removal of exotic vegetation, fencing, installation of a reverse swale, and planting a native vegetation buffer between the corridor and agricultural uses. Many reclaimed wetlands will be clustered within the New River corridor, largely eliminating fragmented wetland “islands.” This will improve continuity of habitat and, along with the natural upland buffer, will ensure all of the landforms needed for vital components of the life cycle and wildlife diversity remain linked.
Finally, the reverse swale and native vegetation buffer of the New River corridor will improve the quality of wetlands and other surface waters by enhancing groundwater seepage that will act as a natural filtration system for run off from the adjacent agricultural lands, which often contain fertilizers, pesticides, and cattle nutrients. Fencing the corridor will also prevent cattle from trampling or over grazing the vegetative communities of these ecosystems.
After reclamation, the HPS property will remain a picture of rural beauty, but it will offer enhanced ecological value.