Ridge Ranger Winter Newsletter

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Ridge Rangers at work

Winter 2019 Ridge Rangers Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Everyone is welcome to participate in Ridge Rangers events. Please click on the links for the full details and to register.

See what we're doing and register:  

Ridge Rangers Online Calendar

About the Ridge

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

Learn more about the region 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 email


Bags and Buckets Needed!

We are looking for donations of sturdy, empty, large feed bags (dog food bags, horse feed bags, bird seed bags or similar sturdy plastic bags) and plastic buckets (5-gallon buckets, empty cat litter pails). We reuse these containers for debris cleanups. Over time they become warn and brittle and we need replacements. If you would like to donate, bring them to your next workday or drop them off at our office (1630 Royce Ranch Ave Lake Placid, Fl 33852). Thank you!

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.

Annual Ridge Ranger Service Celebration!

If you participated in Ridge Ranger activities in 2019 or 2020, mark your calendar for March 28th for a celebration in appreciation for your efforts! Details, including time and location, will be posted on our online calendar.

Future Greenhouse Projects

The Ridge Rangers helped prepare soil, and plant acorns as part of Project Acorn, our ongoing effort to collect and grow native scrub oaks in our onsite nursery.  The next generation has sprouted, and they will join the seedlings from years past as they grow to transition to life in Florida’s scrub.

Milkweed/monarch effort

Over the summer, sandhill milkweed seed pods were collected at FWC properties on Lake Wales Ridge. The developed seeds were planted in our on-site nursery where they are being cultivated by Ridge Rangers Julie Haviland and Rod Matthews. The first green shoots began peeking above the soil in late December. These plants represent our maiden voyage into cultivating additional sandhill milkweed to enhance our current population on Lake Wales Ridge for the benefit of monarch butterflies. Milkweed is an important food source for monarch butterflies, but it also serves as a host plant on which eggs are deposited, with the larvae feeding on the leaves after hatching.

sandhill milkweed sprout

Newly sprouted sandhill milkweed (Asclepias humistrata)

Sprouted scrub oaks

Several scrub oaks (Quercus inopina) have already begun to sprout. 

Quarterly Recognition

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

Roger Bergere

Linda Bertrand

Marilyn Blair

Jerry Burns

Diedrich Dierks

Julie Haviland

Roderick Matthews

Len Manning

Tom Palmer

Rose Plemons

Liane Plumhoff

Harry Ressler

Gabriel Rogasner

Bill Rogasner

Bill Smith

Barbara Stimpson

Connie Sweet

Darrell Trebec

Susan Volpitta

Raymond Ware

Year End Contribution from Salvaging Metal

What a year! Ridge Rangers participating in debris removal work days in 2019 removed over 2200 lbs of steel and aluminum which was brought to salvage to be recycled Over $160 was raised from this inspiring effort, which will go towards supporting future Ridge Ranger projects through the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida.


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

Ridge Rangers Home Page: Ridge Rangers Website

Would you like to find out about the Ridge Rangers program, including how to participate? Send an email to the Ridge Rangers Coordinator

The Ridge Rangers Online Calendar has our schedule of upcoming volunteer events.


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Balsam Apple Removal at FWC's Carter Creek Tract

The Ridge Rangers dedicated 95 hours of cumulative work in October and December pushing back the invasion front on Carter Creek tract of Lake Wales Ridge (LWR) Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA). This work will allow for future successful restorative fires and create habitable areas for rare and endangered Florida plants, 28 of which are known to occur on the site. As we look ahead to 2020, we hope to be able to continue to make significant gains towards removing balsam apple from this area! Balsam apple is an invasive vining plant, brought to the United States as a culinary and medicinal crop. It is easy to spot the ripe fruit of this plant, which is bright orange with fleshy red seeds. When left to grow unimpeded in natural areas its extensive vines can overcome native plant species and shade out smaller plants.


A heap of balsam apple vines

A heap of balsam apple vines 


Protecting Critical Habitats

Bring in the sun! Maintaining healthy habitats in Florida sometimes requires removal of overabundant native plants. Human disturbance often interferes with natural processes that keep populations of plants within a community in check.  Trees, such as pines and oaks, can overshadow sun-loving wildflowers. During cooler months, the Ridge Rangers are often called upon to assist land managers in tree reduction efforts.

Oak Reduction with Florida Forestry Service and Bok Tower Gardens

In November the Ridge Rangers helped with two separate projects to protect state listed endangered flowering plants that exist only in central Florida and nowhere else on earth. The first was part of an ongoing restoration effort at Walk-in-the-Water Wildlife Management Area, part of the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, where the Ridge Rangers worked alongside the Florida Forestry Service to reduce a dense overgrowth of more than 1300 small-diameter oaks.  This project will benefit two state listed endangered flowering plants, scrub pigeonwing (Clitoria fragrans) and Florida lady’s nightcap (Bonamia grandiflora). For the second project, the Ridge Rangers assisted Bok Tower Gardens staff to remove 2722 trees encroaching on sandhill habitat for the benefit of the endangered clasping warea (Warea amlexifolia).


Ridge Rangers use power tools to remove an overgrowth of oaks

Ridge Rangers work with Florida Forest Service staff to remove an overgrowth of oaks 


Avon Park Slash Pine Reduction

Carnivorous plants such as sundew and pitcher plant are dependent upon open, boggy prairies with unobstructed canopies. Many of these plants found in Florida are also threatened. To ensure future habitat heath of these extraordinary plants, delicate orchids and other wildflowers, the Ridge Rangers participated in three slash pine reductions resulting in 1,525 trees removed.  Way to go!


Ridge Rangers braved a foggy morning to remove slash pine

Ridge Rangers braved foggy mornings to help remove slash pines.


Hooded pitcher plant (left) and pink sundew (right)

Hooded pitcher plant (Serracenia minor), left, and pink sundew (Drosera capillaris), right, both encountered during the workday.


Debris Removal at FWC's Highlands Park Estates Tract

It may not be glamourous, but debris removal is a critically important task performed by FWC volunteers throughout the state. In an ongoing effort, the Ridge Rangers are tackling trash removal at Highlands Park Estates in Lake Placid, FL on recently fenced public land. During two workdays in October and December, over 30 bags of glass bottles and 35 lbs. of aluminum cans were recovered, with more left on-site awaiting a future workday to be retrieved. These bottles and cans represent a long history of the site’s misuse as a “party” spot.

A huge THANK YOU to the Ridge Rangers participating in this cleanup. We love for people to visit our public spaces and hope they enjoy their time in nature, but we encourage visitors to embrace the “stash your trash" culture and teach others to do the same. Join us in 2020 to help us continue to reclaim the site for wildlife!

Ridge Rangers pose for a photo with their haul

Ridge Rangers (from left to right) Bill Smith, Gabriel Rogasner, Liane Plumhoff, Barbara Stimpson , Marilyn Blair, Connie Sweet and Bill Rogasner after the first of two workdays. 


Ridge Rangers scout for trash hidden in the vegetation

Ridge Rangers scouted the area for trash, much of which was hidden by vegetation. 


A wire spring mattress entangled in vegetation

Bottles, cans and even a wire spring mattress were found and removed during the workday.