Each year, the National Park Service Intermountain Regional Office of Fire and Aviation presents the Ken Castro Memorial “Excellence in Wildland Fire Management” award to a National Park Service unit whose overall fire program exhibits: success in managing a large wildfire, effectively treating acreage with prescribed burns, provides support to other National Park Service units in the region, and participating in local, regional, and national incident response teams, fire management planning teams, and interagency partnerships.
Throughout 2014 the Big Thicket National Preserve Fire Management team planned and assisted with burn operations at four other National Park Service units, including Yellowstone National Park and Padre Island National Seashore. “Big Thicket National Preserve Fire Management personnel continually set a high bar for achievement in the fire community,” stated Intermountain Regional Fire Management Officer Michael Davin.
Fire is a natural part of the southeast Texas ecology. However, as humans moved to this area and established homes and business, natural fire was suppressed. “The important work done by the Big Thicket National Preserve Fire Management team is essential to the health and vitality of the preserve’s unique ecology,” said Acting Superintendent Edward Comeau. Comeau continued, “Without on-going fire management, the Big Thicket would look very different and the ecological diversity of the region would shrink.” The Fire Management team is on track to burn approximately 4,000 acres in 2015. Most notably they will be working to prepare a 250 acre tract of land in the preserves Big Sandy Creek Unit, west of Woodville, Texas, as part of a monumental tree planting effort. In 2016 the National Park Service will celebrate its centennial. To mark this anniversary, preserve staff will undertake a significant Longleaf Pine restoration effort. With the assistance of hundreds of volunteers, 100,000 Longleaf Pine seedlings will be planted, establishing a centennial forest. The Fire Management team is using a variety of techniques, including fire to suppress non-native species and prepare this site for planting.
Big Thicket National Preserve Fire Management Officer Fulton Jeansonne said that this award “shows the depth and quality of the Big Thicket Fire Management personnel.” Jeansonne expressed great pride in the accomplishments of this team.
The Fire Management crew at Big Thicket National Preserve was previously recognized with the Ken Castro Memorial “Excellence in Wildland Fire Management” award in 2011.
Big Thicket National Preserve is in southeast Texas just north of Beaumont and 75 miles northeast of Houston. The preserve consists of nine land units and six water corridors encompassing more than 112,000 acres scattered across a 3,500-square-mile area. The Big Thicket, often referred to as a “biological crossroads,” is a transition zone between four distinct vegetation types – the moist eastern hardwood forest, the southwestern desert, the southeastern swamp, and the central prairies. Species from all of these different vegetation types come together in the thicket, exhibiting a variety of vegetation and wildlife that has received national interest.
For general information about Big Thicket National Preserve, visit https://www.nps.gov/bith or call the preserve visitor center at 409-951-6700.
Contact: Jason Ginder
Phone: (409) 951-6721