September 03, 2021
Fire has been present on the Southern landscape long before European settlers inhabited the ground you and I call home today. The Longleaf pine (pinus palustris), savanna and wire-grass ecosystem made up +/- 90 million acres spanning from East Texas to Virginia. This ecosystem was maintained and sustained with ‘fire on the landscape’ through both naturally occurring wildfires caused by seasonal lightning strikes, and by fires which resulted from human intervention. Maintaining fire on the landscape was a common practice for Native Americans and early settlers, as it mimics the ecosystem’s natural cycle.
Animals and plants that dwell in pine savanna's depend on frequent fires due to their ability to bring on new growth. A pine ecosystem with frequent, naturally occurring fires allows native plants and animals to thrive. For some rare and endangered plants and animals it’s even essential for their survival. Fire rejuvenates and helps expose bare mineral soil that allows natural seed banks and native plant communities to establish and sustain themselves for the long haul.
Once these diverse ecosystems are established, many game and nongame species have their own Golden Corral buffet line within their reach - this may be why it was common for Native Americans to burn areas where they would hunt, large or small. These burned areas were a great way to draw game, as well as create easier opportunities to stalk and hunt game.
Even though we do not live in those times and a majority of folks have moved away from hunting and gathering as their main source of protein, fire remains a key component to maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Join me as we dive into the many benefits of adding, or simply maintaining, fire on the landscape. We will discuss a number of topics that will increase your knowledge in the world of “prescribed fire'' and hopefully help you to no longer fear fire, but instead respect and understand its importance.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to prescribed fire at a young age. Growing up in a family that quail hunts, I quickly learned that fire and quail go hand in hand. I mean, there’s a reason quail are also known as the “firebird;” you have to have one to have the other. Anyways, after growing up and seeing how important fire was to rejuvenate the growth of many natural Forbes and fauna, I was fortunate to further that knowledge through both my undergraduate and graduate school studies, and I continue building on that knowledge now in my day-to-day work.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, what is “prescribed fire?” Well, in the ‘Georgia Prescribed Fire Act, 1992,’ it is defined as:
“the controlled application of fire to existing vegetative fuels under specific environmental conditions and following appropriate precautionary measures, which causes the fire to be confined to a predetermined area and accomplishes one or more planned land management objectives, or to mitigate catastrophic wildfires.”
Now that you’re familiar with what prescribed fire is, you have to know how fire works. Not the things we set off on the 4th of July, but the process of how fire actually works.
The ‘Fire Triangle’ is composed of 3 components: Heat, Fuel & Oxygen. If any one of these three components is missing, you will not have fire. Understanding this fire triangle might seem small but without it, topics like: forest stand fuel loads, smoke management, weather (wind, temperature, RH, mixing heights, etc.), stand location (proximity to houses, roadways, etc) really don’t matter because you will not have a successful burn.
Although there are some complexities to burning, I want to encourage you to educate yourselves through reading and watching content on burning, as well as getting your boots on the ground and building confidence. Just like anything, this confidence is built by the level of experience and time you have put into something.
I would also like to encourage you to reach out to a friend, family member, or a local professional that is well versed in prescribed fire before diving into this head-first. If you are looking for places to further your knowledge on prescribed fire, I encourage you to reach out to your local Georgia Forestry Commission and or visit their website for some great information (https://gatrees.org/). If you are looking for a podcast that focuses on this topic and its benefits towards wildlife you can look into “Fire University.”
Lastly, if you have any questions on this topic or anything forestry and wildlife related, don't hesitate to reach out to me directly via email (email@example.com) or IG (@jasebrooks34). Again, the goal is to have more ‘Fire on the Landscape’, so being able to further our knowledge and applied science on the ground will benefit not only you and me, but everything that dwells within the ecosystem in which fire is applied.
Jase Brooks serves as a forester, acquisition, and hunting lease manager for The Westervelt Company based out of one of the company’s satellite offices in Statesboro, Georgia, where he has been since 2016. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry and played football at Sewanee: The University of the South and received a Master’s degree in Forest Business from the University of Georgia. He grew up in Powder Springs, Georgia, just Northwest of Atlanta where he played football, baseball, and ran track. When he wasn’t partaking in team sports, he was in the woods hunting or fishing. He is a Christian that is passionate about furthering the Kingdom and an avid outdoorsman who loves traveling the US and abroad with his loving wife Tara and his Llewellyn Setter, "Briar" and Brittany Spaniel, "Alba."
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