Cooperatove Conservation Project

Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP)

Partnership Preserves 1 Million Acres of Public-Private Land

Location: Southeastern Region: Alabama Florida

Project Summary: A partnership to protect and manage exceptional biodiversity across the GCPEP landscape, while remaining consistent with the partnerís individual and diverse missions.
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Watershed restoration is one of the many activities where collective expertise is shared among partners. Eglin Restoration: Photo by S. Davis
Resource Challenge
Florida’s Western Panhandle is one of the most rapidly growing  areas in the Nation; its pristine coastal region is under intense  development pressure. Rapid growth and the loss of green space  are creating serious encroachment issues for Eglin Air Force Base  (AFB), Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS), and NAS Whiting Field.  The most serious issues include concerns about low level fl ights and  weapons testing in the face of encroaching development.
From a conservation perspective, the area includes the largest  remaining stands of natural longleaf pine forests and some of the last  undeveloped coastline on the Gulf. The pine forests shelter rare and  listed species, including the world’s 4th largest population of the  endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. Conservation organizations  have concerns about timber production and sustainable forestry,  outdoor recreation, conserving biodiversity, wildlife management, and  protecting water resources.
The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP), formed in  1996 via a Memorandum of Understanding, launched a joint planning  process to identify conservation goals and actions, and to provide  buffers for military lands. Non-government partners have contributed  funds and offi ce space, and have provided volunteers, public  outreach, and other services.
Examples of Key Partners

International Paper Company, Nokuse Plantation, The Nature Conservancy, Florida Division of Forestry: Blackwater, Point  Washington, and Pine Log State Forests, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Northwest Florida Water Management District, USDA Forest Service, Conecuh National Forest, US Department of Defense: Eglin AFB, NAS Pensacola, and NAS Whiting Field; and the USDI National Park Service Gulf Islands National Seashore

Results and Accomplishments
The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership recently expanded, and now covers more than one million acres. It is working to  increase buffers around military reservations, improve biodiversity management, and assure green space and recreation opportunities for the region. Its activities include:
  • Participating in the “Florida Greenways Project,” a multi-agency/organization initiative that is working to create a greenway from the Gulf of Mexico south of Tallahassee through Eglin AFB, NAS Pensacola, and NAS Whiting Field to Ocala National Forest  further south.

  • Completed land deals that have protected tens of thousands of  acres immediately adjacent to the three
    DoD installations. 

  • Supported scientifi c workshops to develop a regional strategic conservation plan.

  • Created an Ecosystem Support Team for on-the-ground  management. The team conducts ecological monitoring of key natural communities, has assisted with more than 39,000 acres of prescribed burning on GCPEP lands, and helped the partners with Hurricane Ivan relief.

A partnership formed to increase buffers around military reservations but contributing to green space conservation on a landscape-scale.

Project Contact
Vernon Compton
Project Director
The Nature Conservancy
4025 Highway 178
Jay, FL 32565
James Furman
Chief, Fire Management
Eglin AFB Natural Resources
107 Highway 87 North
Niceville, FL 32578

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