Significant features of the Outpost's fragile ecosystem
include critically endangered habitat and threatened and
The Outpost land juts into a preserve that's home to a great diversity of plants and animals. One mile of the Outpost borders the Guana Lake.
The 12,000-acre Guana Preserve that surrounds the Outpost was purchased by the state of Florida because of its environmental sensitivity and to protect several endangered and threatened species.
Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, crustaceans and mollusks call the Outpost
their home - either year round or as a critical migration point. Fourteen species sited in Guana are among those designated Threatened (FT, ST) or endangered (FE).
American alligator Alligator mississippiensis FT(S/A)
Eastern indigo snake Drymarchon corais couperi FE
Gopher tortoise Gopherus polyphemus ST
American oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus ST
Black skimmer Rynchops niger ST
Least tern Sterna antillarum ST
Little blue heron Egretta caerulea ST
Piping plover Charadrius melodus FT
Reddish egret Egretta rufescens ST
Roseate spoonbill Platalea ST
Tricolored heron Egretta tricolor ST
Wood stork Mycteria americana FT
All imperiled species in Florida are listed here.
Guana is a key migration point for many species of aquatic birds.
Three photos above and one to right by Craig O'Neal.
Many Species of Special Concern (SSC)
live in or migrate to to Guana, including the roseate spoonbill - a majestic bird that's vulnerable to degradation of feeding and nesting habitats - and the black skimmer (above). If we carve away their habitats - 100 acres here, 100 acres there - their numbers will decline.
When Herb Peyton sold 11,000 acres of the Guana River peninsula to the state for $49 million in 1984, his intention was for the land was to be preserved. Development of the 99-acre Outpost property that is surrounded on all sides by pristine Guana land would mean literally chopping a hole into an extraordinarily diverse ecosystem.
Among the Outpost's unique environmental qualities is a freshwater depression marsh*- a
critically endangered habitat that's vital for
recharging groundwater aquifers with clean
freshwater, according to the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection.
A diversity of habitats, the Outpost borders a 2,400-acre wetland that contains both salt and freshwater animal species in open water and fresh water marsh habitats. Over 250 native plant species have been identified
in Guana. The Outpost abuts Outstanding Florida waters and the GTM National Estuarine Reserve .
The Outpost's maritime hammock is a significant habitat that is imperiled or rare in St. John's County. Its soil and site conditions demonstrate a potential for gopher tortoise, a threatened species seen in Guana.
Gopher tortoises are long-lived reptiles that share their deep burrows with more than 350 other species and are therefore referred to as a "keystone species." Conservation of gopher tortoises leads to the conservation of many other species. Both the tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law.
The wood stork (below) is a federally-designated endangered species. It's not only the largest, but the only stork that breeds in North America, and a sizeable breeding population exists within Guana preserve. We must protect its habitat which includes the 99 acres presently threatened by development.
The largest woodpecker in North America disappeared in our lifetime, and its habitat included the very land we seek to protect today. Will the largest stork in North America follow the example of the ivory billed woodpecker and
dwindle in numbers until it's gone?
How many more species will we lose forever to bulldozers?
"The [Outpost] property contains unique environmental qualities and County staff agrees with the current Conservation Land Use of the subject parcel due to those unique qualities, surrounding areas and the amount of impact to environmentally sensitive areas caused by a change from Conservation to another more intense Land Use."
Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection
Gate Petroleum has submitted a 2014 Habitat Assessment and Preliminary Listed Species
Survey Report prepared by Environmental Resource Solutions, which misrepresents both the habitat identities on the Outpost as well as the potential for species of special concern (SSC) and threatened species (T) to exist on Outpost land or on the water it borders.
Pre vs. Post-Development:
Approximately one mile of the Outpost
borders Guana Lake where run-off from
construction, fertilizer, pesticide and other
contaminants would harm the abundant life
in this unique body of water. Impermeable surfaces created by new roads, homes and
driveways would cause polluted run-off to empty into pristine waters. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has found that 80% of Florida's lakes are already considered impaired by excessive levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Not only does Guana Lake provide habitat to threatened species, but also to a diversity of sought afterfish including sea trout, redfish and black drum, but flounder, catfish, small sharks, sting rays, jacks, croaker, ladyfish, and bluefish.
Development of the Outpost could be detrimental to the only National Estuarine Research Reserve on Florida's east coast.
Some of the country's most pristine freshwaster, tidal creek and Estuarine habitats are right in our own back yard. #8 above marks the GTM National Estuarine Reserve which includes Guana River - sharing a one mile border with the Outpost property. A large swath of habitat destruction at the Outpost would impact the National Estuarine Reserve's fragile ecosystem and animal populations. The North Florida Land Trust feels that the ownership and management of the Outpost is critical towards ensuring the future health of the GTMNERR.
One of the 350 animal species that the gopher tortoise shares its burrows with is the threatened eastern indigo snake - a non-venomous snake that's essential to the delicate balance of the ecosystem. With the rapidly declining numbers of the indigo - the longest non-venomous snake in North America - other animal species proliferate, unchecked by natural predators.
If we don't take steps to protect the indigo from habitat loss, Florida will soon follow the example of Alabama where the indigo snake is considered extinct, statewide. As with other animals described on this page, the indigo's large habitat area is crucial to its survival; its range can be as much as 273 acres.
Intense development of the "Outpost" would not only wipe out 76 acres of the indigo's present or potential habitat, but humans are particularly destructive to this species due to its size and docile nature. If a housing development is allowed to encroach on a 12,000-acre habitat area for the eastern indigo snake, the species will be one step closer to statewide extinction.
*Map indicating some of the Outpost's significant features.
The Outpost property is shown by aerial photography. The diverse habitat that borders - and extends into - the Outpost includes a critically endangered depression marsh in its southwest corner.
Map source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in partnership with Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI)
This News4Jax report shows a threatened Tri-colored Heron in front of the Outpost property in addition to a Great Blue Heron, a Great Egret and an Osprey. The cameraman caught these within a very brief time period - less than 15 minutes.
Save Guana now.
It's now or never.