National wildlife groups are ramping up efforts across the southeast to help out vulnerable ecosystems, and that includes plant life here in Florida. As Matt Galka tells us, part of that effort is teaching people the difference between good fires and bad fires, and hopefully preventing wildfires.
The longleaf pine once stretched from Virginia to Texas and covered 90 million acres of land in the U.S. That numbers down to around 3.5 million acres. But officials are hoping for a comeback.
$4.6 million dollars from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will be pumped into projects including here in Florida. Cheryl Millett with the Nature Conservancy says prescribed fires will be key in restoring the longleaf pine, and prevent bigger problems.
“When we get one of those lightning strikes that we’re going to get because we’re in the lightning capital of North America, it doesn’t turn into a big wildfire. Having that prescribed burn really helps,” she said.
Prescribed burns help clear out the excess brush and shrubs from Florida vegetation. Jennifer Evans helped run a workshop in Florida’s capital aimed at educating people throughout the state about the necessary fires.
“Some fires can be good fires. We want people to understand that there are actually good fires out there and that are good for the ecosystem and the health of the forest,” said Evans.
Vernon Compton with the Longleaf Alliance says now they need to reach out to private landowners about the fire’s benefit.
“In Florida, land is going to burn sooner or later, either under controlled conditions or under wildfire, I look at it like fire is your best insurance policy,” he said.
Preventing wildfires would be a good break for state firefighters who are already having a tough year. Florida Forest Service firefighters were set to get raises this year, until it was ultimately cut out of the budget.
The $4.6 million dollars granted to programs around the country looks to restore nearly 12,000 acres of longleaf pine.
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