Bombing Range Is National Example for Wildlife Conservation

Walking through a wildlife underpass from Nokuse Plantation to Eglin Air Force base feels like traveling back in time.

On the one side is Nokuse: a 54,000-acre private conservation property and site of the largest private longleaf pine restoration project in the world. While there are eight million newly planted longleaf pine trees here, they are mere saplings (only ten years old), so it requires some knowledge and imagination to envision what this place will be like in a few more decades.

Joe Guthrie explores some of the 250,000 acres of Eglin Air Force Base that are open for public recreation. Here he hikes one of the more popular segments of the Florida National Scenic Trail which traverses the north portion of the base. (Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.)

Entering Eglin Air Force Base to the west paints a different picture. It is like stepping 200 years into the past, or from the perspective of Nokuse, fast-forwarding 200 years into the future.

Elgin feels ancient. As the Florida Trail climbs out of creek bottom ravines to sandy rises, we are surrounded by the oldest trees we’ve encountered on our entire 1,000-mile Florida Wildlife Corridor expedition. It’s likely there are 300-year-old trees in sight. The Air Force Base is home to the last remaining old-growth longleaf pines in Florida. In the natural resources visitor center, there is a cross section from a 500-year-old tree found on Eglin.

Air Force Special Tactics training, Eglin Air Force Base. Photo by Carlton Ward Jr.
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight carries U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen of the Special Tactics Training Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, to Gator Lake at Eglin Air Force Base to execute water helocasting. This alternate insertion and extraction training is applied —> Read More