Ordway Swisher Biological Station, photo provided by FWC.

Florida Fire Teams Update

By Heather Hitt, Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

In order to help land managers mimic natural fire and restore/maintain healthy ecosystems, Wildland Restoration International (WRI) has created three Ecosystem Restoration Teams (ERT) in Florida.  The Northeast Florida Team was established in 2015 and is supported by State Wildlife Grant, Gopher Tortoise Mitigation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Threatened and Non-game Species Management, and National Fish and Wildlife Federation funding.  This Team is based in Gainesville, operating out of the Alachua County Trust’s Prairie Creek Lodge and is available to help public and private conservation lands conduct prescribed fire and other management practices. 

As of May 2016, WRI created two more ERTs with the help of a contract with the Florida Park Service.  The Central Florida Team is based at The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve on the Lake Wales Ridge and the Southwest Florida Team is based in Nokomis, just south of Sarasota.  Though these two new teams will primarily support Florida Park Service lands, both will be available August through November to support other entities on the Lake Wales Ridge and beyond (see map).

All three ERTs will assist with prescribed burn preparation and implementation, hardwood control, invasive plant treatments, and other fire management practices.  Each ERT is comprised of three to five NWCG qualified, college educated staff and equipped with a type six engine, type seven UTV, and 4WD project truck.

For questions, or to request the assistance of one of the WRI Teams, please contact Evan Hall at Evan.Hall@WildlandRestorationInternational.org.

The Florida Forest Service (FFS) Cooperative Outdoor Burning and Resource Assistance (COBRA) Team continues to assist partners on and around the Brooksville and Mount Dora Ridges since 2013 (see map).  They are also funded by State Wildlife Grants and the National Wild Turkey Federation.  They are equipped with four trained employees, a crew cab pick-up, JD dozer, fire plow, small drum chopper, disk harrow, Type VI brush truck and an ATV.  The Team is housed at the FFS Withlacoochee headquarters north of Brooksville.

For questions, or to request the assistance of the FFS Team, please contact Steve Guckian at Steve.Guckian@FreshFromFlorida.com.

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