December 4, 2013
Contact: Bob DeGross
Natural lightning fires were a regular feature of the land long before the development of roads and human settlements. Natural plant communities found in south Florida evolved to depend on fire for reproduction and overall health.
Recognizing the value of fire in the ecosystem, national preserve managers use prescribed burning to not only protect property and maintain human safety, but also to maintain the natural processes fire dependent communities rely on.
Big Cypress National Preserve anticipates burning approximately 20,000 acres in 2014, and potentially more, as conditions and funding allow.
There are four areas Big Cypress will be focusing on in the coming year:
- The Sanctuary, northeast corner of the Preserve. In 2012, the National Park Service implemented a mechanical treatment around the community. In the coming weeks, if conditions allow, crews will utilize prescribed fire in the vicinity to reduce the risk of high severity wildfire in the area. With the accumulation of vegetation this operation is anticipated to be a slow, expensive, long duration treatment. The prescribed fire will initially be done while water levels are high, to reduce the risk of tree mortality. The operation in the area will increase protection of homes in the vicinity.
- Little Deer, central area of national preserve. Treatments will focus on protecting the cluster of private properties in the interior of the national preserve, building off of the Jarhead Fire in 2011, and recent prescribed fire treatments. This burn, in addition to protecting numerous private properties, will enhance habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species that call Big Cypress home.
- Bear Island Unit, northwest corner of national preserve. This operation will protect State Road 29 and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge from wildfires that could occur within the national preserve north of Interstate-75 and east of State Road 29.
- South of Loop Road in the Paces Dike area. Burns south of Loop Road are anticipated to be combined with burns being planned by Everglades National Park just east of the Big Cypress/Everglades boundary. Over the next few years the National Park Service plans to burn the majority of the area east of Pace's Dike towards Everglades National Park. The objective of the operation is to protect private properties, reduce invasive plant clusters, and improve deer habitat.
Implementation of burn operations is dependent upon a variety of conditions. The above are goals that the National Park Service aims to achieve during the prescribed fire season, which in Florida is typically from October through April. For more information on the fire program at Big Cypress and current fire activity, go to - http://www.nps.gov/bicy/naturescience/fire-activity-and-related-closures.htm
Private property owners within the national preserve are encouraged to maintain a defensible fire perimeter around their structures. For more information on the Florida State Forest Service "Firewise" program go to - http://www.nps.gov/bicy/naturescience/fireregime.htm and http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/For-Communities/Firewise-Communities
For more information about the role prescribed fires play at Big Cypress, please click here.
Big Cypress National Preserve has one of the largest prescribed burning program in the National Park System, typically burning more than 60,000 acres, annually.