Prescribed Fire in Georgia
Prescribed Fire at FDR State Park
Overview of FDR State Park Prescribed Fire Program
50-year plan: In 2007, a 50-year resource management plan was initiated for Georgia’s largest state park, FD Roosevelt. An array of partners contributed to the management plan, including all WRD sections, the Georgia Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, Callaway Gardens, and local public and private stakeholders. Finalized in 2009, the 50-year plan outlines goals and objectives to conserve and maintain the resources of the park. Among the stated priorities in the plan is the maintenance of a prescribed fire program to serve multiple management objectives.
(Above left: A component of fire-adapted communities, little bluestem is a native warm-season grass that provides nest sites for birds and seeds as food for small mammals and birds. Right: A longleaf seedling sprouts beside a cone. Longleaf seeds germinate on recently burned ground. Excessive amounts of pine litter can inhibit germination.)
To date: There have been four prescribed burns totaling 1,535 acres, or 17% of the park. Initial fires have generally been set during wet weather to reduce fuels safely and minimize negative impacts to recreation and aesthetics. One burn is planned for 2011. Prescribed burns include a lengthy planning and review process that details burn objectives, weather parameters, safety measures, contingency plans, equipment needs and many other aspects.
(Right: A controlled burn creeps toward a road. Prescribed fires involve thorough planning, including use when possible of roads, creeks and other barriers as firebreaks to minimize disturbance.)
According to FDR fire program goals, prescribed fire is being used to:
(The same area on FDR the day before a prescribed burn (left), then two months (middle) and nine months later. Biologists estimate the area had not been burned in at least 80 years, suppressing the continuation of longleaf pine and oak/hickory forests.)
Prescribed fire perspective:
(Above: Fire program goals include reducing fuels in the forest and restoring native ecosystems.)
Summary: Fire is only one aspect of the 50-year resource plan. Other tools mentioned include management of deer, invasive species, and fisheries, monitoring vegetation changes, monitoring fire effects, rare species conservation, and safeguarding of rare plant species. The prescribed fire program is working to protect the remaining longleaf pine on the park from catastrophic wildfire. It is not a goal of the prescribed fire program to change the forest cover types of the park.
There is strong support from numerous conservation organizations (Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Longleaf Alliance, Georgia Prescribed Fire Council and others) for DNR’s current management efforts at FDR. Fire has been an important factor in shaping the forests of FDR State Park, and prescribed burning is a necessary and desirable management tool to protect and perpetuate these forests.
(Top: This burned area will green up a week or two after the next rain. Bottom: Come spring, new life colors the landscape in the wake of controlled burns. Dwarf violet iris is part of the longleaf and dry oak forests at FDR State Park.)
Wildlife that benefit from prescribed fires include the brown-headed nuthatch (left), fox squirrel and red-headed woodpecker. (Woodpecker photo: Phillip Jordan)
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