Why we love district lands

R.H. Davis

Growing up a farm boy, land manager appreciates the land

Photo of a man holding a machete and a piece of tree bark to check for insect infestation.

District Land Manager R.H. Davis checks a sample of bark to determine if insects or disease have invaded this tree.

Growing up on a family farm in north Florida, R.H. Davis figured he’d carry on the family business and build a career in agriculture.

“Watching the struggles of my parents trying to stay afloat with a small family farm and a lot of encouragement from my dad led me to seek other pathways for my future,” says Davis, a St. Johns River Water Management District land manager. “A career in some form of natural resource management seemed a good fit.”

Davis also attributes his career decision to the influence of his cousin, Glen, who was a ranger with the Florida Forestry Service. “Watching him and listening to his stories really interested me as a middle-high / school-aged kid. He encouraged me to go to college and once I graduated my course was set.”

Prior to joining the St. Johns district in 2000, Davis worked as an operations technician with the Suwanee River Water Management District, as a consultant with a forestry firm in Perry, Ga., and as the assistant farm manager for the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Live Oak.

As a district land manager, Davis is realizing his dream of helping restore and enhance Florida’s most beautiful natural areas. It’s not always a day in the wild; there’s plenty of paperwork and contracts to manage, not to mention the time required to provide guidance and support to his staff.

“Many of the challenges I have faced since becoming a manager in 2007 have been associated with the restoration/enhancement work that has been accomplished on the former ‘muck farm’ properties,” he says. “We kind of had to write the guidebook when it comes to this type restoration. Such properties have and will continue to be a work in progress. I like to refer to it as peeling an onion, every layer you peel reveals a new layer and a new set of challenges.”

Davis embodies the district’s goal of hiring the best person for a particular job. Florida’s lands are Davis’ passion, a part of what defines him.

“Growing up in a farming family I have always had an appreciation for growing things,” Davis says. “I feel like that has continued into my job here. I have always looked at the restoration process like it was farming native plants. I really enjoy the hands-on parts of the job, whether it is prescribed burning or restoration work. You can look back at the end of the day seeing and feeling the accomplishment of the work you did.”

Photo of people with shovels planting small trees near a fence line.

R.H Davis works with Publix employees to plant trees at Sunnyhill Restoration Area.