On Saturday, February 27 Keep Wakulla County Beautiful along with the US Forest Service hosted the Apalachicola National Forest Cleanup. This event kicks off the Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup for KWCB. 85 volunteers from USFS, KWCB, Wakulla County residents, and surrounding areas came out to assist in getting our beautiful forest lands clean. We had a large group of students from Florida State University that joined us this year as well as a group from our own Wakulla High School.
There were 11 sites that had been identified as having an excessive amount of litter or being used for illegal dumping. Items removed from the forest included appliances, shingles, 15 tires, pool frames & liners, mattresses, and boats- yes, BOATS. These items are in addition to the normal litter that is found of shell casings, bottles, cans, plastic, and styrofoam containers. In total approximately 12,052 pounds of litter were removed from our forest. Tashunda Williams, Recreation Program Manager for the US Forest Service, states “we are so thankful for everyone that participates to help us get the forest cleaned up”.
Of the 573,521 acres of Apalachicola National Forest, over 172,000 acres of this forest lies within Wakulla County. Wildlife that can be found in our forest includes Florida black bears, whitetail deer, fox squirrels, coyotes, alligators, and snakes, as well as protected, threatened, and sensitive species such as the American bald eagle, gopher tortoise, striped newt, and Flatwoods salamander. Did you know that The Apalachicola National Forest has the world’s biggest population of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers; broad white bands painted around the trunks of longleaf pine trees indicate nest clusters. “We are so fortunate to have the beauty of the forest and it’s wildlife right here and accessible to us” said Tammie Nason, Director of Keep Wakulla County Beautiful “it is such a shame that not everyone respects our fragile environment”.
Litter in our forests can pose risks to wildlife and environment in several ways. Toxins from accumulated litter can leak into the soil and eventually into the water. These toxins can be ingested by wildlife in the forest as well as some items that may cause injuries. Excessive litter can also affect the amount of light reaching the soil. This can cause an increase in herbivorous insects and decrease the growth of seedlings and other plant life. Litter tends to be flammable increasing the risk of fire hazards.
If you see any litter sites or dumping in the forest, please reach out to the Wakulla Ranger District at (850)926-3561. A thank you goes out to Wakulla County for supporting our events, WastePro for the donation of the dumpsters used for these large cleanup events, and our volunteers. We could not do this without them.