Fire is a natural factor in the Big Thicket. Certain plant communities need periodic fires to control invasive plants and insect pests, to recycle nutrients into the soil, and to create a more open understory for new plant growth. Frequent low-intensity fires also remove fuels that can lead to catastrophic wildfires if left to accumulate.
The preserve's Fire Management Team conducts prescribed burns in certain ecosystems on a regular basis. Two plant communities in particular, the longleaf pine uplands and wetland pine savannah, need periodic fire to remain healthy. On the Sundew Trail, Pitcher Plant Trail, and Sandhill Loop Trail you'll notice longleaf pine trees with sooty bark. Their thick bark protects these trees from low-intensity fires that damage and kill non-fire-adapted plants. Long, dense clusters of needles protect even the young longleaf pine seedlings from fire damage. Pitcher plants also respond well to periodic fires, growing back profusely from the nutrient-enhanced soil.
In addition to conducting prescribed burns in the preserve, the Fire Management Team also responds to wildfires throughout the Big Thicket area. The team also works with federal, state, and local partners on fire management projects, and assists other National Park Service (NPS) sites in Texas with wildfires and prescribed burns.