Records are always worth talking about and the Florida Park Service has just chalked up another one.
Land management is one of the most important missions of the Florida Park Service and it is essential if our state parks are to be protected and preserved for future generations. In fact, many of the land management policies now being enacted will not produce visible results for many years but our children and their children will be able to enjoy what is being done today.
One tool of land management is prescribed burns and more Florida State Park acreage has been managed with prescribed fire this fiscal year than in any other previous year. In June, park staff broke the previous all-time record for managing prescribed fires on more than 80,837 acres within state parks.
Prescribed fires are one of Florida's most effective land-management tools, applying a natural process to improve ecosystem health, biodiversity and wildlife. Any prescription for fire takes into consideration fuel type, fuel moisture, relative humidity, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction and many other planning factors.
"We are proud of Florida State Parks staff for setting a new record for protecting park habitat with prescribed fire," said Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper. "Florida is fortunate to have such dedicated people working in state parks reducing risks of wildfire and restoring natural systems."
Prescribed fires are planned, set and extinguished by specialized staff. The training is rigorous for prescribed burners, who are tested for physical stamina and trained in fire safety protocols, fire behavior and related issues.
Florida State Parks staff play varying, important roles to conduct prescribed fire. From providing information to park visitors, to managing the burns and walking the fire line, all staff participation is recognized as helping DEP reach resource management goals.
More than 390 prescribed fires at 67 state parks have been conducted so far this year. Training staff, managing fuel levels, constructing new firebreaks, upgrading fire equipment and building partnerships with other agencies have helped contribute to this year's success.
Specific benefits of prescribed fire:
As the year continues, staff will continue conducting prescribed fires throughout state parks. Florida State Parks have partnered with The Outsiders Club to develop educational material for youth to learn about Florida's natural resources and what DEP is doing to protect and preserve those resources for current and future generations.
Dead plants are removed, reducing the risk and severity of wildfires
Open space created by the thinning of underbrush benefits plants and wildlife
Nutrients are returned to the soil increasing plant growth
Wildlife benefits from abundant food resources