Fire on the mountain
THOMASTON — Participants of all ages are invited Saturday, March 8, to “Fire on the Mountain!” — a celebration of an ongoing effort to conserve areas of rare montane longleaf pine habitat through the use of prescribed fire at Sprewell Bluff State Park near Thomaston.
The rain date is Saturday, March 15, for the event organized by the Wildlife Resources and State Parks & Historic Sites divisions of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Forestry Commission, Thomaston Upson County Chamber of Commerce, The Nature Conservancy of Georgia, Callaway Gardens, Georgia Power and The Environmental Resources Network.
Watching safely from the banks of the Flint River, visitors can observe the fascinating practice of prescribed burning as professionals carefully set fire on Pine Mountain ridge.
“Fire is essential to maintaining many species of wildlife and their habitats found here at Sprewell Bluff,” said Nathan Klaus, a senior wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division. “Natural resource professionals feel that it is important to share this knowledge about fire with local citizens, and what better way to do that than with a safe, firsthand experience.”
Beginning at noon, festivalgoers will enjoy the sounds of bluegrass music, the tastes of festival foods sponsored by the Thomaston-Upson County Chamber of Commerce and the natural beauty that makes Sprewell Bluff such a special place.
Throughout the afternoon, natural resource agency staff will provide demonstrations on how and why prescribed fires are conducted, presentations on Georgia’s unique and diminishing longleaf pine forests, and live animal programs showcasing some of the wonderful wildlife that call the Piedmont ecoregion home.
“With acceptable wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity as ‘prescribed’ in our burn plan, we will begin the prescribed fire demonstration on the mountainside, giving spectators a close-up look at Mother Nature’s fireworks set in the natural amphitheater of the Flint River Valley,” Klaus said.
Historically, frequent natural fires swept across the unfragmented landscape, helping shape the diversity of plants and animals found there. And fire is still an important tool for maintaining healthy longleaf pine ecosystems throughout the southeastern United States. Prescribed fire helps prevent the encroachment of competing hardwoods and restores a grassy understory lush with ferns, wildflowers and other herbaceous plants. It also helps establish important habitat for many wildlife species such as the bobwhite quail, wild turkey, Bachman’s sparrow and endangered redcockaded woodpecker.
Wildlife Resources biologists and other burn teams use prescribed fire on thousands of acres each year throughout Georgia to manage wildlife habitats and reduce the risk of damage from wildfires.
Sprewell Bluff State Park and State Natural Area boast more than 3,000 acres along the Flint River. The park and natural area are popular among outdoor enthusiasts for their wildflowers, wildlife, and scenic, rocky bluffs overlooking the river.
For more information on Fire on the Mountain at Sprewell Bluff State Park in Thomaston, visit www.georgiawildlife.com, then choose “Nongame Animals & Plants.” Please visit the Web site before March 8 for updates on possible event cancellation and rain date (March 15) arrangements.