The BLM-ES Fire and Aviation Program Conducts Prescribed Fire in Lathrop Bayou
The Bureau of Land Management Eastern States (BLM-ES) Fire and Aviation Program conducted a prescribed fire on 536 acres of the Lathrop Bayou Management Area of Conservation in Florida between Feb. 22-23, 2020. The prescribed fire was conducted in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and The Nature Conservancy in order to improve habitat and aid conservation of the federally endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker and rare plant species. A prescribed fire, also known as prescribed burn or controlled burn, is a planned fire used to meet management objectives.
BLM firefighters lit small fires surrounding nest trees for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker to reduce the likelihood of these trees fully burning when the larger fire was lit.
The prescribed burn in the Lathrop Bayou Conservation Area is part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order 13855, Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk (Dec. 21, 2018), as well as the Secretary’s Order 3372, Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management (Jan. 2, 2019).
The executive order directs the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands.
Public lands that lack prescribed fires are in danger of many agricultural issues, which include trees becoming pressured by overcrowding, disappearing species, and flammable fuel build-up that could become hazardous. These prescribed fires, if conducted at an exceptional place and time, can provide benefits to public lands, including the promotion of wildflower growth while reducing the likelihood of extreme wildfires.
The prescribed fire will help to restore the remnant longleaf pine habitat contained at the site.
The BLM fields highly trained professional firefighters and managers who are committed to applying prescribed fire in the most effective ways possible in order to protect communities from the risk of wildfire while improving wildlife habitat. The Lathrop Bayou burn was conducted by experienced prescribed fire applicators from the BLM and the USFWS with appropriate ground support and monitoring that was conducted by on-site ground and boat crews.
The Lathrop Bayou Conservation Area was one of the areas effected by Hurricane Michael, causing damage to this long-leaf pine ecosystem. The outcome of the prescribed fire is going to improve this area and reduce dead and down timber from the heavy storm damage.
Regularly scheduled prescribed fires at this site is essential to maintain suitable habitat for four federally listed species that can be found there.
According to Southeastern States District Manager Bob Swithers, “The BLM Fire and Aviation department and the USDA are proud to have joined forces on this urgent manner.” “Consistent with EO 13855, the Lathrop Bayou Management Area of Conservation will benefit from post-fire assessments that show reducing vegetation through hazardous fuel management and strategic forest health treatments is effective in reducing wildfire severity and loss,” he added.
Meanwhile, BLM-Eastern States Fire Management is executing a total of nine Wildland Fire Statewide Master Cooperative and Stafford Act Response Agreements. These agreements facilitate the coordination and exchange of personnel, equipment, supplies, and services with our interagency partners, which includes the Forest Service, National Park Service, USFWS, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the States of Mississippi, Michigan, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Alabama, and Minnesota. The goal is to have agreements signed in all 31 states east of adjoining the Mississippi River no later than 2023.
By: Jasmine Brown, Public Affairs Specialist, Eastern States Office