The US Forest Service is holding prescribed burns in the Apalachicola National Forest.
Just south of Tallahassee, a team of Wakulla District rangers are using driptorches – those handheld metal canisters with a long, lit wick – to light sections of underbrush that haven’t burned since June of 2010. Wakulla assistant fire management officer Bob Airhart said this kind of regular burning has two vital roles in forest management.
“The first one is fuel removal – hazardous fuel removal – and that helps with wildfire. We like to keep things on a three year rotation; anything past that, we may start having trouble as far as more extreme wildfires.”
But Airhart says burning has an important ecological role to play as well.
“Up here we kind of hang our hat on more ecological, I would say. And like I say, quail is an indicator species for us: we keep the quail happy and everything else seems to fall into line”
The prescribed burns clear and open up the soil. When native grasses grow back, they come in more prolifically, providing food and cover for species throughout the ecosystem.
In part because July has been wetter than usual, US Forest Service officials have found it easier to schedule prescribed burning in the Apalachicola National Forest.