• Pa-Hay-okee Overlook

    Everglades

    National Park Florida

Prescribed Fire

River of Grass Northeast Prescribed Burn as seen in "River of Fire"

Screen grab from the video "River of Fire".

NPS Photo

Funded by Everglades Fire Management, The "River of Fire" video depicts a large-scale prescribed burn conducted for hazardous fuel reduction and exotic vegetation management. Our NPS Video producer Jen Brown's beautiful cinematography and highly skilled editing has created a visually compelling example of how prescribed burns are conducted in the Everglades. Watch the video.

 

River of Grass

The River of Grass Prescribed Fire Plan is a landscape-scale project for the wet prairie and sawgrass marsh ecosystems within Everglades National Park. The goals of the project are to use fire to help restore and maintain the wet prairies and sawgrass marshes and to reduce hazardous fuels in proximity of occupied Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (CSSS) habitat, while providing for firefighter and public safety.

Click here to view map of the CSSS Habitat Buffer.

Prescribed burns to help restore and maintain the wet prairies and sawgrass marshes are conducted in the Pay-Hay-Okee, East Everglades, Shark Valley, Stair-Steps and Taylor Slough areas. Landscape-scale prescribed burning is necessary to ensure the health of these communities as many natural ignitions that would have burned across these communities must now be suppressed due to concerns for human safety, the CSSS, and private property. Reliance on natural fire alone will not slow the continued shrub encroachment and prairie decadence. Prescribed fire will complement natural fires but will not fully replace them.

Efforts to protect CSSS habitat through fire treatments focus on establishing a buffer near sub-population A, west of Shark Valley. Additionally, buffers also are established near sub-populations E and F when conditions are favorable. Prescribed burns within Taylor Slough also have the added benefit of providing a fuel break for CSSS sub-population B.

Direction to use prescribed fire to achieve goals and objectives further stated in this burn plan comes from the park's Fire Management Plan. The Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (2001 review and update of the 1995 policy), also mandates federal land-management agencies with fire dependent communities to reintroduce and maintain fire as part of the ecosystem. The policy of using fire as a land management tool helps decrease risks to life, property and resources and perpetuates the natural resource values for which this national park was established.

Exotics
Old World Climbing Fern (Lygodium micrphyllum) is an invasive exotic plant species that has been described as perhaps the most serious threat to Florida's natural areas. Old World climbing fern, native to Africa, Asia, and Australia, is a newcomer to Florida that has spread at an alarming rate since its introduction. Owing to the fern's ability to reproduce by wind-dispersed spores, new populations are found in remote areas far from existing populations (Langeland,UF/IFAS). Old World climbing fern climbs into the tree canopy where it competes with canopy trees and understory vegetation for light. It can completely engulf Everglades tree islands, pinelands, and cypress swamps, and spreads across open wetland marshes. It can kill mature trees along with their associated epiphytic orchids and bromeliads and smother understory vegetation, preventing regeneration of the native plant community. As time progresses, a thick mat of old fern material accumulates on the ground that severely alters the habitat. When fire occurs, the fern carries fire into the tree canopy, causing greater damage and carrying fire through wet areas, which would otherwise present a boundary to the spread of fire.

Lygodium demonstrates the complexity of the exotics threat confronting Everglades National Park, but it is far from the only threat. Other plant species of concern are Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia, and C. glauca), and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius).

The goals of this landscape scale project are to 1) limit invasion of exotic plants into natural areas, 2) to reduce bio-mass of those species that have become established, and 3) Reduce bio-mass of woody plant species from areas with artificial elevation gradients (roadbed shoulders).

This project supports the Everglades National Park Exotic Species Management program. Everglades National Park and the South Florida Water Management District have undertaken a cooperative agreement entailing the mapping and treatment of exotic-pest plants. Under this program, exotic species are mapped annually and some impacted areas are treated with aerial application of herbicide. The intent is to follow these herbicide treatments with fire application in an attempt to eradicate the invasive plant species or at least slow its establishment. Previous treatments have shown that fire application after spraying is an effective treatment for Schinus, if the treatments are applied before the species is well established in an area and fine fuels are available to help carry fire. Application of fire without herbicide treatment is also effective if the Schinus has not yet developed into a dense stand. Less is known about the effects of fire treatment following herbicide with regards to Lygodium. For this reason, target ignition areas containing herbicide treated Lygodium have been selected for fire treatment and will be monitored pre- and post-burn to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment regime. If untreated areas of Lygodium are identified, these patches may be ignited to help reduce the thatch layer so that future application of herbicides is more effective. This plan encompasses exotic treatment efforts undertaken throughout Everglades National Park. Fire Management staff will work closely with Exotic Species Management staff to identify those areas requiring fire treatment. Typical treatment efforts would include: treating Lygodium sites in the Coastal Prairies, treating Shinus scrapes within Hole-in-the-Donut, treating Cassurina or Melaleuca in East Everglades, and treating shrub hedgerows along main park road.

Direction to utilize prescribed fire to achieve goals and objectives stated in this burn plan come from Everglades National Park's Fire Management Plan. The Federal Wildland and Prescribed Fire Management Policy of 1998 also mandate that federal land management agencies within fire dependent communities reintroduce and maintain fire as part of the ecosystem and conduct fuel reduction in the Wildland urban interface. The policy of using fire as a tool will help decrease risks to life, property and resources and help perpetuate the natural resource values for which the park was established.

Pinelands
The project area is approximately 20,000 acres in size and consists of pine rocklands, tropical hardwood hammocks, and seasonally flooded prairies and transverse glades. Most of the project area is located within the Pinelands Fire Management Unit (FMU III), small portions of the project area may overlap into the River of Grass FMU (FMU II). This landscape scale prescribed fire plan encompasses all prescribed fire activity within the pine rockland ecosystem.

Click here to view the location of pinelands on a map.

The pine rocklands have a long history of prescribed fire. In the 1950s, Dr. Bill Robertson recognized the role fire played in the slash pine ecosystem and was concerned with the changes within the pinelands as a result of fire exclusion. In 1958, the first prescribed fire in National Park Service history was ignited within the project area (Block B). Since that fire, within FMU III, over 200 prescribed fire treatments have treated more than 100,000 acres. The reason for that initial prescribed fire treatment was to begin the process of restoring the pinelands. These fire treatments are a continuation of Dr. Robertson's work and are aimed at maintaining this unique ecosystem.

Historically, frequent (one to five years), low intensity surface fires characterized the pineland's fire regime. Prescribed fire will be used in the project area to achieve goals of restoring and maintaining the remaining pine rockland ecosystem, and reducing hazard fuel accumulations. Prescribed fire will also be used to assist in controlling exotic-pest plants. Most prescribed fire treatments covered by this plan will be implemented during the spring - summer growing season (May through July). Individual treatments may be initiated at other times to meet specific treatment unit burn objectives. Previously, prescribed fire treatments have been conducted in the pinelands as blocks using fire roads as treatment boundaries. Recent management strategy has evolved to allow fire to spread from one block to another if threats to identified values can be mitigated effectively. Each year we identify primary treatment units, which are high priority areas for fire treatment. Areas that are not targeted for treatment may still be burned either as a result of fire spread from a targeted area, or ignited to achieve resource objectives if conditions are favorable and resources are available.

The implementation of prescribed burning for all treatment areas follows the Pinelands burn plan. An Incident Action Plan will be written to guide burning operations before the implementation of any prescribed fire treatment. The burn boss or designee will be responsible for managing spot fires and slop-overs from fire treatment units into the general project area. The burn boss will determine appropriate management strategy based on current and expected weather, potential threat to values within the project area, potential threat to project area boundary, and the ability to manage additional fire within the project area using on-site resources. Human-made and natural barriers confine many of the treatment units and, in most situations, fire managers can use these barriers to effectively manage daily fire growth.

Direction to use prescribed fire to achieve goals and objectives stated in the Pinelands burn plan come from Everglades National Park's Fire Management Plan. The Federal Wildland and Prescribed Fire Management Policy of 1998 also mandate that federal land management agencies within fire dependent communities reintroduce and maintain fire as part of the ecosystem and conduct fuel reduction in the wildland urban interface. The policy of using fire as a tool will help decrease risks to life, property and resources and help perpetuate the natural resource values for which the park was established.

Did You Know?

River of Grass

The Everglades is not the proverbial swamp many people consider it to be. It is technically a river, flowing southwest at the slow rate of about a quarter mile per day.