Ridge Ranger Fall Newsletter

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Ridge Rangers are volunteers restoring wildlife habitat on the Lake Wales Ridge and nearby areas in Central Florida.

Fall 2019 Ridge Ranger Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Everyone is welcome to participate in Ridge Rangers events. See the links below for details.

Current Calendar and Registration:

 Ridge Rangers Online Calendar 

About the Ridge

Lake Wales Ridge is home to unique plants and animals found nowhere else!

Learn more here.

Get Involved!

In addition to our traditional Saturday workdays, several upcoming projects need individuals willing to contribute specialized effort. If you are interested in participating in any of the projects below, get involved by emailing


Native Plant Nursery

The on-site native plant nursery at LWR WEA Royce Unit in Lake Placid is in need of a few regular (weekly or bi-weekly) volunteers to assist with the cultivation of our native oak seedlings and other plants. Tasks include weeding pots, moving plants from shade to sun, re-potting plants as they grow and organizing the greenhouse equipment as we get ready for a new growing season.

Scrub-Jay Monitors Needed!

Florida Park Service (FPS) is looking for interested individuals to make regular (once a month or more) visits to Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park in Lake Placid to monitor resident scrub-jay families. FPS wishes to resume banding scrub-jays at this location but needs help watching the birds for post-banding health. It's a great opportunity to get to know the June-in-Winter scrub-jay family groups, observe their behaviors, participate in scientific research and help a threatened Florida native.

Torpedo Grass Strike Force

To protect and enhance the work that’s been done at the LWR WEA Royce Unit  ground cover restoration area, a torpedo grass strike force is being organized to remove this invasive grass. Participants will assist with the delicate task of removing torpedo grass rhizomes from the ground in areas where chemical treatment is not possible due to proximity to native plants or using a wet glove technique to safely apply chemicals directly to new growth.

Quarterly Recognition

Thank you to all the Ridge Rangers who participated in projects this summer! We appreciate your dedication to conservation along the Lake Wales Ridge.

Roger Bergere

Marilyn Blair

Jerry Burns

Gage Colao

Diedrich Dierks

Rose Plemons

Liane Plumhoff

Harry Ressler

Bill Smith

Connie Sweet

Steve Turner

Susan Volpitta

FWC Initiatives

Backyards and Beyond

The FWC encourages people to make a difference by planting a refuge for wildlife in their backyard – Animals need places to live beyond Florida’s Wildlife Management Areas. Efforts to create wildlife habitat at home can have a positive impact on Florida’s wildlife. Find out how you can make a difference at the website: Backyards and Beyond

Floridians are also urged to document wildlife activity by submitting photos via the iNaturalist website -or app- to Florida Nature Trackers projects.

Manatee and Turtle Decals

The 2019 manatee and sea turtle decals are now available. Every year, colorful newly designed decals for manatees and sea turtles are released. Funding from the $5 donation per decal supports conservation of these species. The decals are available from local tax collector’s offices and can be ordered when people annually renew their vehicle registrations.

Take a look at this year’s designs!  


Unable to make it to our workday events but interested in helping conservation efforts on Lake Wales Ridge?

Consider making a donation to our foundation to help fund future projects.

Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida 

Reference Links

Registration: Ridge Rangers Online Calendar 

Home page: Ridge Rangers Website

For Ridge Rangers working independently: Report Hours


Tessie Offner

Ridge Ranger Coordinator


Phone: 863-699-3742


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Restoration Around the Ridge

Good things are happening!

Ridge Rangers worked on two major restoration planting efforts over the summer, and in total 2,200 individual native plants were restored to the Lake Wales Ridge region. On Walk-in-the-Water Wildlife Management Area, Ridge Rangers assisted Florida Forestry Service biologists in planting 1,500 wiregrass plugs to restore sandhill habitat. Further south, on FWC’s Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area (LWR WEA) Royce Unit, 700 native plants were added over five workday events, bringing the total number of natives planted since 2018 to 1,300. 

A trailer half-filled with oak saplings with Ridge Rangers planting in the background.

Ridge Rangers plant native trees and flowering plants, some grown at our on-site nursery, at the ground cover restoration area.

Blazing star flowering and seeds

Blazing star and other flowering plants have gone to seed this year thanks to your efforts!

Ridge Rangers plant wiregrass plugs

1,500 wiregrass plugs were restored to Walk-in-the-Water WMA in just one workday.

Protecting Precious Plants

The summer may have been hot, but the Ridge Rangers refused to let that stop them! Three workday events were scheduled between June and October to tackle invasive plants encroaching on native vegetation in FWC’s managed lands. Ridge Rangers are called upon by area biologists to remove invasive plant species by hand pulling when other treatments may damage the native vegetation and rare plants along the Lake Wales Ridge. 

Removing non-native rosary pea

Removing non-native plants while protecting native plant species from damage.

Roofing Shingle Roundup

A whopping 3 tons (6,000 lbs) of roofing shingles and other debris were removed by Ridge Rangers over two weekend workday events in August on FWC’s LWR WEA Carter Creek Tract. This effort removed debris harmful to both wildlife and humans and will allow nearby productive flowering plants to recolonize the surface that had been covered by the shingles, a real win for both wildlife and nature enthusiasts!

Ridge Rangers excavate buried shingles

Ridge Rangers remove partially buried roofing shingles and other debris.


a bee and a skipper butterfly visit prairie clover

Pollinators, such as skippers and bees, enjoy the nectar of Feay’s prairie clover which was blooming prolifically at the site of the debris cleanup.

Feay's prairie clover, green vegetation with pink fuzzy blooms

Feay’s prairie clover was abundant at the site of the cleanup and will now have room for future growth.

Searching for Scrub Jays

The Florida scrub-jay is Florida’s only endemic species of bird, meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world. In June, Ridge Rangers Marilyn Blair and Bill Smith attended the Florida Audubon Society’s Jay Watch training and surveyed for this Federally-designated Threatened bird. Surveys were conducted in July rewarding participants with plenty of opportunities to view scrub-jays while contributing valuable scientific information to Florida Audubon and FWC. If you would like to get involved with Jay Watch see Florida Audubon’s website (link below) .


Volunteers pose for a photo after Scrub Jay training

Volunteers and biologists learned how to conduct scrub-jay surveys at a training session in May.