As we continue our recovery and cleanup efforts, please visit the Emergency website for the latest information on openings and closings in Miami-Dade County.
Every great community has a great park system, and every great park system has a great Nature Preserve system! Natural Areas Management (NAM) is the Division of Miami-Dade County's Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (PROS) Department that provides natural resources management services as well as scientific information and environmental assessments to various county, state and federal entities.
Natural Areas Management's Responsibilities
Our primary responsibility is to control invasive species to help preserve our natural environment. Miami-Dade's forests are surrounded by an urban and agricultural landscape from which exotic plants easily escape. Exotic plants continue to invade our natural areas. It is more cost-effective to institute a preventive maintenance program to ensure that our natural areas do not degrade from neglect.
In addition to exotic plant control, we are responsible for assisting the Florida Forest Service in fire management in natural areas. The County's nature preserves contain more than 50 properties encompassing over 1,700 acres of fire dependent pine rockland forest. Pine rocklands need to burn on an interval of 2-7 years. Before South Florida was developed, lightning was the main source of ignition. Today, the remaining fire-maintained habitats are fragmented, virtually eliminating the possibility of lightning ignition. In many of the preserves, fire has been excluded for more than 10 years, allowing flammable fuels to build up. The "fire regime" of urban forest fragments has shifted from a summer lightning fire to dry season human-caused ignition. Dry season wildfires are destructive and more difficult to control and predict. DOF and NAM conduct "prescribed burns" in pine rocklands that closely resemble natural fires. Prescribed burning can be conducted safely under specific environmental conditions with fire fighters on site.
To restore, protect and manage Miami-Dade County's natural environment through conservation, resource management, environmental partnerships, and community outreach to preserve these areas for present and future generations.
In 1991, the Parks Department established Natural Areas Management to initiate active management of the natural areas under its jurisdiction. The groundwork for the program was funded by an Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation grant which allowed Miami-Dade Parks, The Nature Conservancy, and Fairchild Tropical Garden to form a conservation partnership.
Approximately 26,800 acres of native forest and wetland occur on 89 sites in Miami-Dade's nature preserve system, including 1,668 acres of globally-endangered pine rockland and 670 acres of upland hardwood forest including State-endangered rockland hammock forest. The remaining forests of Miami-Dade County are particularly important and sensitive resources. Less than 1% of Miami-Dade County's original 185,000 acres of forest remain.
The diversity of plant species is incredible, more than 60 species in these forests are found nowhere else in the world. These natural areas are also critical to native wildlife and migratory birds. Miami-Dade's natural areas are also focal points for environmental education, nature study, wildlife observation and other passive recreation activities.
Unfortunately, South Florida's hospitable environment has also favored the colonization of a number of exotic plant species. Over the last century, humans have introduced hundreds of plant species from all parts of the world to South Florida. Most have caused no significant problems, but some have escaped into the wild and have cause severe damage to natural systems. In a natural area, these invasive non-native plants compete for limited resources such as space, light and nutrients. With few or no natural enemies to control their growth, some species are capable of completely displacing native habitats. Examples of these include the Melaleuca tree, Brazilian Pepper, Australian Pine, and Old World climbing fern.
The quality of our preserves, programs and services have been recognized with the NRPA National Gold Medal Award and the Florida Governor's Sterling Award for excellence in management and operations. We are one of the most unique and diverse park and recreation systems in the world, and positively impact the community's health, environment, social well-being, and economic prosperity daily.
NAM's restoration efforts have received state and national recognition:
- The Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy awarded NAM its 1997 Public Service Award.
- NAM received the 1997 Ecosystem Restoration Award from the Florida Urban Forestry Council for innovative techniques in forest recovery, preservation and management.
- In 1997 Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt presented
- NAM with its Community Environmental Restoration Award. NAM has received awards from the Florida Native Plant Society for excellence in ecosystem restoration (2001, 2002, and 2010).
- 2013 NaCO Park-School Partnership for Nature Preserve Management
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