Exotic Tree Removal
In wooded areas surrounded by homes, the role of fire is greatly diminished. Fires caused by lightning are quickly extinguished to preserve adjacent homes. The permitting of controlled burns is often difficult and expensive. Without some form of 'maintenance,' the tree species that make up the woods change over time, particularly with invasive exotics. The woods become a dense thicket of exotic trees, making it less hospitable for many animals. Some of these invasive trees also present a far greater fire danger. During the summer of 2012, the Southwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association asked the City if something could be done about the growth of invasive exotic trees on 'Oasis Woods.' In particular, melaleuca, or paper trees, made up approximately 60% of the forested area and posed a serious wildfire hazard to homes.
During the latter part of July and early August, the City of Cape Coral contracted for the removal of invasive exotic pest trees. Adjacent property owners were notified by mail to be made aware of the reasons for the clearing. While the contractor was working in the area, four other nearby properties also had exotic trees cleared. The clearing work was done at no cost to the City. The removed trees (biomass) will be recycled into landscape mulch.
Oasis Woods site 4 before clearing
Oasis Woods site 4 after clearing
Oasis Woods site 6 before clearing
Oasis Woods site 6 after clearing
The City's Environmental Resources Division oversaw and monitored the work done by the contractor. They also surveyed the sites for protected plants and animals prior to cleaning. If present, locations were marked to prevent disturbance.
While this was the most visible project, similar work had started to clear exotic trees from Major Park / Yellow Fever Creek Preserve in the northeast part of Cape Coral. Lee County's portion has been completely cleared of exotic trees. On the City's portion, almost 80% of the exotic trees have been removed. Additional City parks will be undergoing exotic tree removal in the near future.
Major Park before clearing
Major Park being cleared
Major Park 5 months after clearing
Invasive trees are not utilized by native animals and degrade both native food sources and habitat. The impact resulting from invading plants can affect wildlife across Florida including protected species such as the gopher tortoise, wood stork, species of woodpecker, and even the Florida panther. The removal of exotic trees essentially mimics the effects of wildfires in a forest. It clears out dense tree growth, "turning the clock back" to how the wooded area once looked. Removing the invasive exotic trees promotes the growth of native trees, shrubs, and grasses. This makes the area more conducive to wildlife.
Initially, the land will show the normal dramatic visual effects of the tree removal. However, in a short time, new vegetation will enhance the beauty of the land while reducing a serious wildfire threat to nearby homes.
Cleared woods after 2 years