2020 Fieldtrip

 Williams Wetland Preserve

Tour the recently protected property of FWC's landowner of the year

Leaders: Ben and Louann Williams

Day: Sunday

Start Time at Site: 11:00 AM

End Time at Site: 2:00 PM

Difficulty: Moderate

Lunch Included? No

Handicap Access: No

Cost: $7

Ben and Louann Williams are offering a tour of their private 3,725 acre property, Wetland Preserve.  It is located adjacent to the St. Johns River Water Management District Rice Creek Conservation Area in Putnam County.

Wetland Preserve is a working forest, as well as a conservation success story.  The Williams family uses the property to educate people about native Florida, land conservation and stewardship while also supporting their family through timber operations.  They enjoy sharing how a balance can be struck between ecology and industry and invite you to come see for yourself!

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recognized the couple as the 2019 Florida Land Steward Landowner of the Year for their efforts to conserve land for wildlife and plants.  In September 2019, the North Florida Land Trust purchased a conservation easement over the entire property through the Florida Forever Program. The conservation easement will prevent the property from ever being developed.

The varying habitats within Wetland Preserve include mesic flatwoods, floodplain swamps, depressional wetlands and sandhills.  On the drier sandhill sites, the Williams have partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the FWC to protect gopher tortoise.  Suitable portions of the property are being reforested with Longleaf pine, and Wetland Preserve participates in the sustainable forestry initiative as well as adhering to the Florida Forest Services' Best Management Practices (BMP) program for water and wildlife. 

One exciting new project that commenced as of 2019 is a partnership with Florida Power & Light, USFWS and FWC for the planting of Etonia Rosemary in appropriate soils on part of the sandhill area.

Forest managment on the property is conducted such that native groundcover is enhanced.  This includes long rotation stand management, thinning of the canopy, planting Longleaf pine and a robust, well-planned prescribed fire regime.  Native plants have returned and thrive on this once overworked land. 

The property is an important link in the O2O Wildlife Corridor and hosts over a mile of the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Ben is speaking at our conference during the St. Johns River track.

Pine lily (Lilium catesbaei).  Photograph courtesy of Wetland Preserve LLC.