Fire-fight­ing duo

DNR, Na­ture Con­ser­vancy team up for new pre­scribed fire crew

The Covington News - - Agriculture & outdoors -

SO­CIAL CIR­CLE —A new joint ef­fort by the Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources’ Wildlife Re­sources Di­vi­sion and The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy will help pre­vent wild­fire dam­age in Ge­or­gia and pro­mote healthy forests.

For the first time, the two groups are work­ing to­gether to hire a four-per­son sea­sonal burn crew that will be head­quar­tered at Moody For­est Nat­u­ral Area, a 4,500-acre south Ge­or­gia prop­erty man­aged by the De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy. This unique step in on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts will al­low for more pre­scribed fires in more lo­ca­tions.

“The two agen­cies can burn more acres work­ing to­gether than they can sep­a­rately,” said DNR Wildlife Bi­ol­o­gist Shan Cam­mack.

The Wildlife Re­sources Di­vi­sion and The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy are mem­bers of the Ge­or­gia Pre­scribed Fire Coun­cil, which kicked off Pre­scribed Fire Aware­ness Week on Feb. 3.

“Pre­scribed fire is a safe way to ap­ply a nat­u­ral process and to en­sure ecosys­tem health by re­duc­ing the risk of wild­fires,” said Matt Snider, fire man­ager for The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy in Ge­or­gia and Alabama and a mem­ber of the Ge­or­gia Pre­scribed Fire Coun­cil’s Steer­ing Com­mit­tee.

A sea­sonal sweep of fire is con­sid­ered es­sen­tial to the man­age­ment of fire-de­pen­dant wildlife in­clud­ing quail, east­ern wild turkeys, song­birds and the en­dan­gered red-cock­aded wood­pecker. Pre­scribed fire also is the only known method for per­pet­u­at­ing the lon­gleaf pine wire­grass ecosys­tem, which is Ge­or­gia’s most di­verse type of forest­land.

The new burn team will be a mo­bile unit, which means it can quickly adapt to chang­ing con­di­tions. Con­duct­ing suc­cess­ful pre­scribed fires is a pre­cise prac­tice, re­quir­ing that all the fac­tors in­flu­enc­ing the fire’s growth and in­ten­sity be just right. Plans must some­times be scrapped be­cause of un­fa­vor­able con­di­tions. With a mo­bile unit, land man­agers can make plans to burn at mul­ti­ple sites, and, if one lo­ca­tion doesn’t work, the team can move to the next site on the list.

In many lo­ca­tions there are only a few days a year that are fa­vor­able for burn­ing. When those days ar­rive, the team has to be ready. A mo­bile unit will help make sure those op­por­tu­ni­ties are not missed.

In 2007, wild­fires burned along In­ter­state 75 from Val­dosta to north­ern Florida, burn­ing more than 500,000 acres. The smoke spread, clos­ing roads and cre­at­ing haz­ardous smoke lev­els in metro At­lanta for 12 days from April to June. Dam­age was es­ti­mated at more than $100 mil­lion. More than 6,000 peo­ple were forced to evac­u­ate.

“Much of the dam­age on private lands from last sum­mer’s wild­fires in the Oke­feno­kee area was due to fire sup­pres­sion,” said Cam­mack. “Burn­ing pro­motes a healthy for­est and it is go­ing to hap­pen any­way so it is much bet­ter when we can con­trol it.”

Pre­scribed Fire Aware­ness Week, which runs through Satur­day, Feb. 9, helps for­est man­agers and state and fed­eral of­fi­cials ed­u­cate the Ge­or­gia Leg­is­la­ture and the pub­lic on us­ing pre­scribed fire as a tool for re­duc­ing the risk of wild­fires.

Buy­ing a nongame wildlife li­cense plate or mak­ing a do­na­tion via the State In­come Tax Check­off sup­ports work such as sea­son- al burn­ing that ben­e­fits nongame in Ge­or­gia. The tax check­off and sales of bald ea­gle and hum­ming­bird tags pro­vide vi­tal fund­ing for the Nongame Con­ser­va­tion Sec­tion. Projects vary from mon­i­tor­ing sea tur­tles to pro­mot­ing aware­ness of pre­scribed fire.

Wildlife li­cense plates are avail­able for $25 at all county tag of­fices. Tags also can be bought by check­ing the wildlife li­cense plate box on mail-in reg­is­tra­tion forms. Visit for on­line re­newals.

The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy is a lead­ing in­ter­na­tional, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that pre­serves plants, an­i­mals and nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ties rep­re­sent­ing the di­ver­sity of life on Earth by pro­tect­ing the lands and wa­ters they need to sur­vive.

To date, the Con­ser­vancy has pro­tected more than 258,000 acres in Ge­or­gia, and its more than 1 mil­lion mem­bers have been re­spon­si­ble for the pro­tec­tion of more than 15 mil­lion acres in the United States and have helped pre­serve more than 102 mil­lion acres in Latin Amer­ica, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pa­cific. Visit TNC on the Web at na­ ge­or­gia.

The Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources’ Wildlife Re­sources Di­vi­sion is charged with pro­tect­ing, con­serve, man­age and im­prove Ge­or­gia’s wildlife and fresh­wa­ter fish­ery re­sources. The di­vi­sion also man­ages and con­serves pro­tected/en­dan­gered wildlife and plants, ad­min­is­ters and con­ducts the manda­tory hunter safety pro­gram, reg­u­lates the pos­ses­sion and sale of wild an­i­mals, and ad­min­is­ters and en­forces the Ge­or­gia Boat Safety Act..

Wildlife Re­sources’ Nongame Con­ser­va­tion Sec­tion works to con­serve the state’s na­tive di­ver­sity of wild an­i­mals, plants and habi­tats through ed­u­ca­tion, re­search and man­age­ment. For more, see www.geor­giaw­ildlife. com.

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