Message from Dr. Ann Shortelle

Prescribed fire is just one tool the District uses to protect public lands

January 10, 2020

It is not unusual to see smoke on some of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s public lands as our staff conduct prescribed fires. In fact, you may have seen smoke this week as we conducted prescribed fires at Lake George, Econlockhatchee Sandhills and Lochloosa Wildlife conservation areas. District staff routinely use prescribed fire as a land management tool to mimic this natural process for the fire-dependent species that are found on District lands.

Prescribed fire is the focus of a statewide observance later this month (Prescribed Fire Awareness Week, Jan. 26–Feb. 1). We participate in this observance with public and private landowners to promote understanding of prescribed fire, which helps maintain the health and diversity of fire-dependent eco-systems, helps manage tree diseases, and reduces the risk of dangerous wildfires.

Since 1993, our staff have completed prescribed burns on more than 650,000 acres of District lands, with 51 prescribed fires conducted on about 30,000 acres in the past year alone.

As always, safety is a top priority when conducting prescribed fires. Staff spend many hours training each year. In addition. they take great care to plan and safely carry out these fires, for example confirming that weather conditions on burn days are suitable to managing the fire’s effects and making last minute changes as needed. Our staff collaborate year-round with many partners, including other agencies and local governments to build strong partnerships in which we all benefit from shared expertise and manpower. Thanks to our dedicated Bureau of Land Resources team and Bureau Chief Brian Emanuel for your diligent work and willingness to share your expertise.

Ultimately our goal is to restore, enhance and protect these lands for their water resource values, biodiversity and public enjoyment. As we start 2020, I invite you to make plans this year to visit and enjoy the District’s public lands throughout our 18-county area. Information about each property, maps, photos and videos can be found on our website at www.sjrwmd.com/lands.

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