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Picayune Strand State Forest is one of 37 state forests in Florida managed by the Florida Forest Service. The 78,000-acre forest consists primarily of cypress swamps, wet pine flatwoods and wet prairies.
Picayune Strand was logged for cypress trees in the 1940s and 1950s. After logging was complete, the land was purchased by developers and drained for the construction of what was intended to become the largest subdivision in the world. This area became the setting for the infamous swampland in Florida scam. Potential buyers were shown the land from the air during the dry season, and many lots were sold to people who never saw their land from the ground. Few homes were built in the subdivision named Golden Gate Estates created by the Gulf American Land Corporation due to the lack of electricity and high summer water levels.
By the 1970s, it was obvious that the extensive canal system was having an adverse effect on the natural communities of Picayune Strand and associated ecosystems, including Faka-Union Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands area. Soon after, state and federal agencies identified the need to restore the hydrology of Picayune Strand and began to develop a plan to achieve this goal. The first parcels of land in Picayune Strand were purchased in 1985 using Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) funds under the Save Our Everglades program. This was an incredibly complex undertaking as it involved acquiring land from 17,000 landowners. In 1998, the federal government gave $25 million in aid to the state of Florida to help bring the land acquisitions to a completion. The Picayune Strand State Forest was officially named in May 1995.
The Picayune Strand is critical to the health of the Everglades ecosystem. Historically, the wetlands that composed the Strand contributed to groundwater recharge and regulated the flow of freshwater through the landscape and into the estuaries to the south. The canal system established in the 1970s altered the hydrology of the Strand and surrounding areas by draining the wetlands and increasing freshwater point source discharges into the estuaries. Consequently, former wetlands were invaded by upland and non-native vegetation and the delicate balance of fresh and saltwater in the estuaries was disrupted. The result was an extensive loss of wildlife habitat. Restoration of Picayune Strand was planned as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
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