Thanks to hard work by seasonal yet dedicated professionals, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section has burned 20,000 acres across the state. The burning, done between January and April, benefits rare species and promotes habitat restoration.
The Nongame Conservation Section works with partners of The Interagency Burn Team, which consists of agencies such as DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Georgia Forestry Commission, in addition to a seasonal burn crew made up of Student Conservation Alliance (SCA) members managed by DNR.
“This year, with its unusually wet weather, there were more days that allowed for areas with high fuel loads, areas suffering from fire exclusion, fire suppression or altered fire regimes to be safely burned,” said Shan Cammack, coordinator of the prescribed fire crew and a wildlife biologist with the Nongame Conservation Section.
“Even so, we could not have had such a successful year without the help of our partners and the SCA strike team.” We have been able to burn approximately 19,500 acres since January, with 4,614 acres of that attributed to our SCA seasonal crew.”
The strike team consists of three crewmembers who DNR hires and trains seasonally. Because prescribed fire is weather dependent, a mobile team can get to more places, sometimes with little notice. This frees up other DNR personnel – which is especially important during tight economic times. A grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society helped fund the crew this year.
“The seasonal fire crew was made up of three incredibly motivated and talented young people this year. Each one worked tirelessly, excelled in the task at hand and showed great leadership skills,” Cammack said.
One crewmember, Brett Boisjolie, continued with SCA as a forestry technician in Idaho; another, Lily Walter, returned to farming on Martha’s Vineyard in New England; and crew leader Carly Monahan stayed in Georgia to help prepare and plan for the next burn season.
"It has been great to have (Carly) stay on with us to help conduct growing season burns as well as recon and prep burn units and write burn plans for next year,” Cammack said. “Prescribed burning requires a lot of planning and work before you ever strike a match.”
Prescribed fire is one of the most effective and economical ways to manage Georgia’s forestlands and ecosystems while minimizing the risk of wildfires. It is a safe way to apply a natural process that in turn benefits habitat restoration and species recovery.