Conservation // 5 min Read

In the Field: 2021 Burn Season

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Mar 4, 2021

Southeastern ecosystems have evolved alongside periodic wildfires that helped to shape the landscape. As a result, many native species have adapted to tolerate or even require fire for natural ecosystem processes. The importance of fire in the landscape makes it an essential tool in the Conservancy’s management tool belt. The Conservancy uses fire for multiple objectives such as burning leaf litter for hazard reduction, recycling nutrients into the soil, suppressing hardwood growth in pine-dominated habitats, and managing for wildlife.

The Conservancy also burns as a part of the safe harbor agreement – a voluntary agreement between private landowners and the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service to manage habitat for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Two ways to meet our safe harbor agreement requirements are through burning or by thinning pine plantations. Beginning in 2020, the Conservancy had logging crews thin multiple pine stands throughout the managed forest. This was long overdue and opened up areas of the Bluff that had previously been too thick to burn. Timber thinning also decreased ground clutter, which reduced our need to burn as many acres as we normally do for hazard reduction.

In previous years, we would typically aim to burn over 1,000 acres, but our 2021 goal was only 300 acres. This small goal proved to be a wise decision with the incredibly wet January and February we experienced. As of the end of February, the Conservancy burned a total of 290 acres. 150 of these acres had not seen fire within the past decade, including the burn in Headwaters, one of the Conservancy’s conservation easements. The prescribed burn in Headwaters was a major objective for the Conservancy’s longleaf pine regeneration efforts. While we could end the season here, we will be watching the weather closely during the first few weeks of March to determine if we will burn again before officially calling a close to the season.

Learn more about prescribed burning.