North Sebastian Conservation Area Management Plan

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  • MANAGEMENT PLAN

    for the

    NORTH SEBASTIAN CONSERVATION AREA

    Indian River County, Florida

    Combined FCT Projects: 95-025-P5A -AGC Industrial Tract

    96-043-P7 A - St. Sebastian PUD 99-056-P9A - North Sebastian C.A. Addition (Anstalt Tract)

    Prepared by: FloridAffinity, Inc.

    Ecotech Consultants, Inc.

    For: Indian River County, Florida

    Board of County Commissioners

    June 2001

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS I. Introduction ........................................................................................................................................................................................... 1

    A. Location/Ownership B. Land Use and Zoning C. History D. Vegetative Assessment

    II. Purpose ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 11 A. Natural Resource Conservation and Enhancement B. Environmental Interpretation, Education and Research C. Comprehensive Plan/Preservation 2000 Conformance D. Scrub Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) E. Management Objectives

    III. Structures and Improvements ........................................................................................................................................................ 14 A. Existing Improvements B. Proposed Improvements C. Required Permitting D. Easements, Concessions, and Leases

    IV. Key Management Activities ............................................................................................................................................................ 19 A. Maintenance B. Security C. Staffing D. Natural Resource Protection E. Archaeological/Historical Elements F. Management Coordination

    V. Resource Enhancement ..................................................................................................................................................................... 21 A. Exotic Plant and Animal Removal B. Enhancement Management

    VI. Cost/Funding .................................................................................................................................................................................... 25 A. Development Cost Estimate B. Funding Sources

    VII. Monitoring ....................................................................................................................................................................................... 25 A. Annual Implementation Report B. Progress Assessment C. Plan Updates

    LIST OF TABLES Table 1:

    LIST OF FIGURES Figure A: FigureB: Figure C: FigureD: FigureE:

    LIST OF APPENDICES Appendix A: AppendixB: Appendix C: AppendixD:

    Estimated Management and Development Costs ................................................................... 27

    Scrub Jay Habitat "Core Areas" ................................................................................................ 2 Location Map ............................................................................................................................ 3 Natural Communities Map ........................................................................................................ 7 Master Site Development Plan ............................................................................................... 16 Management Activities Tirneline ............................................................................................ 28

    Potential Listed Species Conceptual Approval Agreement/Index Existing and Proposed Easements FNAI Species Report Forms

  • First Amendment to add St. Sebastian P.U.D.: The original management plan for the 75 acre North Sebastian Conservation Area was approved by Florida Communities Trust in November, 1996, as part of FCT Award #95-025-PSA. Subsequent to that date, Indian River County purchased a contiguous 312 acre parcel of land known as the St. Sebastian Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.). The award recipients are now seeking reimbursement for the purchase costs for the additional land, under FCT application #96-043-P7A. This document amends the original North Sebastian Conservation Area Management Plan to incorporate the additional acreage. New text is indicated by italic script.

    Second Amendment to add Anstalt tract: In March 1999. Indian River Countv purchased an out parcel known as the Anstalt tract, under FCT grant award # 99-056-P9A . The tract added 18. 72 acres to the overall property managed as the North Sebastian Conservation Area. This second amendment to the North Sebastian Conservation Area Management Plan incorporates this additional acreage. New text is indicated by underlined italic script.

    SECTION I - INTRODUCTION

    Indian River County and the City of Sebastian are creating the North Sebastian Conservation Area for the purpose of furthering a number of County and City policies and objectives. These include the need for conservation of native upland plant communities and the enhancement of native communities disturbed by development activities, the protection of environmentally endangered habitat and threatened or rare species within their jurisdiction, the protection of aquifer recharge areas and wetlands in the northern portion of Indian River County, and the provision of open space and compatible recreation and outdoor education facilities in the urban service area.

    Policy directions incorporated in the Comprehensive Plans of both governments define the types of resources to be protected through a variety of means, one of which will be outright purchase by the County. To implement these policies, the County has developed an ambitious land acquisition program, managed by the Department of Community Development and coordinated through an appointed Land Acquisition Advisory Committee of concerned citizens and County officials. In November 1992, County voters approved an Environmental Lands Bond Referendum, funded by ad valorem taxes. With funding from the bonds Indian River County is prepared to enter cost-sharing partnerships with the Florida Communities Trust for land acquisitions under the State's Preservation 2000 program.

    The North Sebastian Conservation Area will be managed to preserve native vegetation areas serving as habitat for rare species. This project is one of a coordinated multi-county and state acquisition effort to preserve core areas of scrub habitat for preservation of the endangered scrub-jay along Florida's Atlantic Coastal Ridge. (See Figure A.) This project is one of many areas in which Indian River County is working with the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a countywide Habitat Conservation Plan for the protection of scrub habitat.

    1

  • - FIGURE A

    CR 5 1

    SR 0

    OSLO RD

    2

    SCRUB JAY HABITAT CONSERVATION 'CORE" AREAS

    Atlantic OcMn

  • TO P.t.UI. BJ..Y

    R 38 E

    PROJECT LOCATION

    " 0 ~I

    TO

    C

    g ~. I

    T R 40 E

  • This management plan has been developed to provide guidelines for County and City officials and staff for natural resource management and development of public access facilities at the Conservation Area. The plan meets management plan requirements of the Preservation 2000 program, and satisfies the special conditions contained in the Conceptual Approval Agreements between Indian River County, the City of Sebastian and the Florida Communities Trust.

    A. Location and Ownership

    The North Sebastian Conservation Area was formerly known as the "AGC Industrial Tract" (approximately 76 acres), the St. Sebastian P.UD. (approximately 312 acres), and the Anstalt tract (18. 72 acres). The Conservation Area consists of approximately 407 acres of uplands and wetlands, located at the northeastern comer of the City of Sebastian. The Conservation area is located north of Main Street and east of the Florida East Coast Railway line. City of Sebastian municipal buildings are located near the southeastern boundary of the property, and the Sebastian Airport and a golf course are located immediately west. The property is currently owned by the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners. See Figure B.

    B. Land Use and Zoning

    The future land use classification and zoning designation for the property are currently for industrial and low density residential land uses. Adjacent future land uses include industrial, low and medium density residential, general commercial and mixed use ( commercial office-residential).

    C. IIlstory

    The eastern boundary of the property is the Florida East Coast Railway right of way. It is likely that the earliest historic-era development near this site is related to construction of Flagler's railroad during the late 19th. and early 20th. Centuries, but the site has remained undeveloped. As part of the Sebastian Highlands planned unit development, originally platted in the 1950's, the property was designated for future development of industrial land uses, and the properties immediately north of the tract currently support light industrial businesses and warehouses.

    The Sebastian Highlands development was later incorporated as the City of Sebastian. Prior to the 1950's, this area of Indian River County was sparsely settled land. No historic or prehistoric sites are known to be located on the project land at this time. The county-wide cultural resource survey by The Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc., conducted in 1992 for development of the County Comprehensive Plan, identifies no sites in the project area, but indicates there may be some potential for significant cultural resources being located in the area. The plan states that the higher dune ridges west of the coastal plain terrace may have supported extended habitation sites.

    4

  • D. Vegetative Assessment

    The primary purpose in the establishment of the North Sebastian Conservation Area is to preserve and provide management for scrub islands in this region, which form integral components in the overall plan for protection of native species and their habitat within the eastern coastal ridge. The establishment of this Conservation Area, the nearby Wabasso Scrub Conservation Area and the Sebastian Scrub Conservation Area will provide managed resources critical to the long term survival of several endemic species, including the Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens coerulescens), and the Florida gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus).

    At least five families of scrub jays have been documented within the above mentioned conservation areas, and scrub-jays were identified in at least two separate areas on the North Sebastian Conservation Area during preparation of this plan amendment. These families are contiguous with known populations within the Roseland area (Sebastian Airport, Cox, Status and Distribution of the Florida Scrub Jay. 1984). The inclusion of the St. Sebastian P. U.D. land in the North Sebastian Conservation Area increases the amount of scrub jay habitat in this project by approximately 76 acres. Long term management of the sand pine and oak scrub communities on the Conservation Area will provide additional potential habitat for further distribution of the scrub jay population in Indian River County.

    Development pressures in the coastal regions of east central Florida have resulted in the loss of much of the native coastal scrub communities. Scrub communities are pyrogenic, and are maintained by infrequent, high intensity fires. Sand pine scrub, oak scrub, and scrubby flatwood communities all require natural fire to keep the canopy and subcanopy strata relatively open, which allows for the establishment of groundcover species and the regeneration of certain species. Scrub communities where natural fire is suppressed will likely succeed to xeric hammocks, or will build up a high fuel load resulting in fires which are almost always catastrophic. It is apparent that natural fire has not occurred within the scrub communities on the North Sebastian property for many years. The sand pine communities on the site vary in canopy density, but in many areas have formed a closed-canopy community, indicating that some mechanical clearing prior to prescribed fire will need to occur in order to reduce the fuel load.

    Prescribed fire is one mechanism for long term scrub management. Use of prescribed burns, however, needs to be conducted at intervals which consider the various stages of development of certain species. For example, sand pine scrub which is burned too frequently most likely will lose the sand pine canopy and succeed to oak scrub or sandhill communities. If prescribed fires in these communities are suppressed, the result may be succession to an oak hammock or other forested communities.

    Selective clearing, roller chopping, or mowing will be used as management tools to supplement prescribed fire management at the Conservation Area. However, these techniques are likely to be less effective with respect to long term, large scale scrub management than prescribed burning. As discussed below, Indian River County staff will work with the City of Sebastian, the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission and the Florida Division of Forestry to further define those areas requiring mechanical and

    5

  • prescribed burn management at the Conservation Area. Because of the location of this site near residential and commercial development, US. Highway I, and a local airport, smoke management and containment of burned areas will be a primary concern in the planning of prescribed fires. Resource management operations will provide public safety benefits through the establishment fire control lanes and selective clearing, which will aid in the containment of any wildfires which may occur on the site due to lightening strikes or other causes.

    The North Sebastian Conservation Area consists of approximately 407 acres of upland and wetland natural communities. The project contains twelve natural community types as described in Guide to The Natural Communities of Florida, Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), 1990. These communities are depicted on Figure C. using fourth level numerical codes of the Florida Land Use Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS), Florida Department of Transportation, 1985. The total acreage of vegetative communities shown on Figure C includes the 100 foot wide Gibson Road right of way containing approximately 2.6 acres, which has not been cleared. For the purpose of describing existing site conditions, the site's natural communities are described in more detail in the following narrative.

    6

  • AuC INDU5iRIAL- iRACf AN5f AL-f ADDlflON

    C?\ .~-

    "'. . . . .

    _ 1411d-_._ .....

    5f. 5fl7A5flAN P.U.D.

    LEGEND

    3201 SHRUB & BRUSH LAND t LI ~ 18.49 ACRES - 4.54% ! \

    0 411 0 MESIC FLATWOODS 147.45 ACRES - 36.24% 411 1 SCRUBBY FLATWOODS c-==:=J 40.56 ACRES - 9.97% ~

    4112 WCT FLATWOODS 10.89 ACRES - 2.67%

    4130 SAND PINE SCRUB 74.42 ACRES - 18.29%

    4131 SANO PINE FOREST 4.77 ACRES - 117%

    421 0 XERlC OAK SCRUB

    18.35 ACRES - 4.51%

    42...

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