Fire on the moun­tain

Cel­e­brate con­ser­va­tion

The Covington News - - Agriculture & Outdoors -

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.

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