Florida’s Western Panhandle is one of the most rapidly growing areas in the Nation; its pristine coastal region is under intense development pressure. Rapid growth and the loss of green space are creating serious encroachment issues for Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS), and NAS Whiting Field. The most serious issues include concerns about low level ﬂ ights and weapons testing in the face of encroaching development.
From a conservation perspective, the area includes the largest remaining stands of natural longleaf pine forests and some of the last undeveloped coastline on the Gulf. The pine forests shelter rare and listed species, including the world’s 4th largest population of the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. Conservation organizations have concerns about timber production and sustainable forestry, outdoor recreation, conserving biodiversity, wildlife management, and protecting water resources.
The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP), formed in 1996 via a Memorandum of Understanding, launched a joint planning process to identify conservation goals and actions, and to provide buffers for military lands. Non-government partners have contributed funds and ofﬁ ce space, and have provided volunteers, public outreach, and other services.