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Rogers Wildlife Showcase

turkey on farmImproving Wildlife Habitat While Managing Land

Cecil O. Rogers, better known as “Bill”, is truly a natural resources conservationist. Bill owns and manages a 1200+ acre farm in the Svea community of Okaloosa County, Florida. Long range planning, setting realistic goals and implementation of the plan has been Mr. Rogers’s recipe for success on his farm.  He operates a 125 cow/calf operation and grows timber on approximately 450 acres of the farm. In conjunction with managing the land for the cows and timber; improving wildlife habitat for bob white quail, turkey, and white tailed deer has been a priority for him. Darryl Williams, NRCS district conservationist has been very instrumental in providing assistance to Bill in helping him attain his conservation goals.

EQIP, WHIP, and CSP have all been used as important venues for assistance that Darryl has recommended to assist Bill in getting conservation on the ground. EQIP was used to provide assistance for livestock watering for the farm with the installation of well and pumping plant back 2004; however, the WHIP has been the program that has been the best fit for Bill’s operation. WHIP contracts for 2004, 2009 and 2010 have been used to dramatically improve the wildlife habitat on the property. The 2004 contract provided assistance with establishing a prescribed burning regime. In areas where fire could not be used to reduce plant completion, a tree cutter was used to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor to promote native grasses and other flowering plant growth which result in an increase in the carrying capacity of the land. Land clearing was used to provide open spaces for permanent food plots to be established that would further enhance the carrying capacity. The 2004 contract was completed and Bill was extremely happy the results he observed. In fact, he signed up again and he was awarded a 2009 contract.

The 2009 contract provided assistance to enhance an additional parcel he purchased. Realizing the results that had been obtained by utilizing the prescribed burning and the wildlife openings Bill wanted to install the same practices on the new parcel. Darryl assisted him with the planning process to identify conservation practices that addressed the resource concerns and fit the landowner’s operation.

In 2010 Bill implemented a nutrient management plan to reduce his fertilizer cost. Darryl provided the guidance needed to develop a sound overall nutrient management strategy through soil testing and planting legumes to cut down on the need for nitrogen applications.

Not at all surprising, the farm qualified for two CSP contracts – one for forest land and another for pasture land. Through these contracts an even higher level of management is being implemented with several new practices planned along with specific CSP enhancements. The forest land contract will use Brush Management, Forest Stand Improvement, Riparian Forest Zone Enhancement, Tree/Shrub Establishment, Upland and Wetland Wildlife Habitat Improvement and Prescribed Burning to protect and increase the productivity of the forest land for many wildlife species along with increased timber production.

Bill selected enhancements for his pasture land CSP contract that he felt would be the best fit for his operation and management style. He knows how ground disturbance can afford the opportunity for seeds laying dormant to germinate and bring new plant life to the community. He selected the following enhancements that meet that objective – Improve Non-Cropped Areas for Wildlife, Patch-Burning for Wildlife Habitat. He chose two additional enhancements that are good for the environment. Recycle 100% of Farm Lubricants and Rotation of Supplement and Feeding Areas.

Through working directly with the NRCS, and developing a sound conservation plan, Bill has addressed many resource concerns that are priorities here in Florida. Soil erosion, water quality and animal and plant health all have been addressed and improved. This was made possible through the programs offered by NRCS.