A large, infrequently burned tract in central Florida. Ages are on the
young side for old-growth (max. ~ 160 years), and understory is in poor
shape. Acreage estimate is probably too high. Active restoration program
in place (hardwood harvesting and burning).
Big Pine was part of 6,000 acres of land originally staked from the U.S.government
by Colonel Pearson of South Carolina in 1842. The land was sold to Colonel
F. H. Ederington in 1852. In 1904 Colonel Raymond Robins bought 2,082
acres of this land. In 1932 Robins deeded 2,082 acres to the U.S. Dept.
of Agriculture under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Robins designated
parts of this land to be used for a bird and wildlife refuge, forest reserve
and an agricultural experiment station. In 1966 the Department of Interior
decided that the area was too small to be operated as a refuge and the
lands became surplus lands.
Since 1966, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare
(now the Dept. of Education) has been overseeing the use of the 420 acre
Big Pine Tract. In 1973 Pres. Nixon declared all surplus lands be made
available to the public. At this time the USDA Beef and Cattle Research
Station in Hernando County owned a total of 5,880 acres, of
which 1,313.5 acres were declared surplus. The Big Pine Tract was part
of this surplus. In June 1973 ownership of the 420 acres was transferred
by quitclaim deed to the University of Florida School of Forest Resources
and Conservation (UF). The main provision of this
quitclaim deed was for the property to "be utilized continuously
for educational purposes " for thirty years. When the UF program
was redirected in 1979, the original quitclaim deed was modified to include
Division of Forestry (DOF) as co-managers of the property. DOF provided
manpower and financial support for management of the property through
1985. The UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation was unable to
utilize Big Pine according to the original agreement. In 1989 the U.S.
Dept. of Education transferred the quitclaim deed to the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission for use in conjunction with Chinsegut
Nature Center and cooperation with the Hernando County School Board.