The Florida Forest Service is on a mission to use fire to preserve habitats, encourage regrowth of native trees and prevent wildfires. Each year at Jennings State Forest, the state forestry agency aims to burn a third of the forest – roughly 8,500 to 9,000 acres – but that goal is not always achieved. And when it doesn’t happen, it’s usually due to adverse conditions, such as weather or drought. The Jan. 10 burn was the first time this specific block had been burned since 2007 and 2008.
Prolonged periods without a prescribed burn can have a long-term negative impact on the state’s silviculture or pine tree management plan. The state sells the mature timber on the open market and uses the proceeds to preserve the forest for recreational use. The agency sees prescribed burn as necessary to help bring nature back to balance.
"When you don’t burn for extended periods of time, hardwoods start to encroach on the habitat and it’s ultimately trying to reach its climax community, which is a hardwood-dominated forest. It becomes very hard to burn once you get a hardwood dominated system," Florida Forest Service biologist Brian Camposano said.