Wednesday, 19 November 2003: 8:00 AM
Prescribed Burning by the Florida Park Service
The Florida Park Service (FPS) manages 490,000 upland acres scattered throughout 158 units. The FPS began burning in 1970 and has placed a strong emphasis on burning during the lightning season. Fire is viewed as a basic ecological necessity for all fire-type communities managed by the FPS, and an attempt is made to use fire on all fire-type acres, regardless of location. In 1986, the FPS had 89,000 acres of fire-type communities to manage. The FPS now manages over 235,000 fire-type acres (164% increase). Current focus applies fire at anytime of year to reduce years of fire backlog versus a concentration on lightning season burning. Fire is used to reduce fuel loads; to perpetuate communities; to remove logging slash; to improve habitat for listed species; and to open vistas. Prescribed burning has become more complicated due to an increasing wildland-urban interface, environmental factors such as severe drought and southern pine beetle infestation, and air quality issues including smoke management and pollution levels. FPS has increased personnel training and contributed significant resources to acquiring state of the art fire equipment. FPS uses park staff and volunteers who are not solely dedicated to fire and does not rely on fire management staff. Since 1986, FPS has burned 536,000 acres compared to the 922,000 acres proposed for burning (42% shortfall). Ultimate success remains elusive due to increasing fire-type acreages, decreasing staff, increasingly complicated burns, and increasing demands pulling staff away from fire programs. FPS remains committed to prescribed fire as it struggles to find ways to accomplish an ever-increasing task with ever-decreasing resources.