Prescribed Fire and Fire-adapted Habitats of the East Gulf Coastal Plain: A Communications Strategy of the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture

Almost all Southeastern upland systems, as well as some types of wetlands, have been shaped and maintained by periodic fire. Decades of fire suppression have degraded these systems and have changed the human perception of fire and its role on our landscape. Prescribed fire serves as a crucial management tool to restore and maintain these habitats, and its use is a critically important issue in the Southeast.

This Communications Strategy proposes that the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture (EGCPJV) assume the role of prescribed fire champion by focusing its coordination, outreach and partnership activities through the lens of prescribed fire – a process vital to the ecological health of the natural communities that support birds and wildlife diversity. This document is strategic, providing a comprehensive framework of prescribed fire issues and messages within which the EGCPJV will
further identify priority actions. The “niche” of the EGCPJV with respect to prescribed fire is to focus on fire’s ecological benefits to wildlife, specifically birds, and provide wildlife-focused education and outreach materials to key audiences.

This strategy builds upon the unique strengths of the EGCPJV Management Board and staff, which lend themselves to achieving prescribed fire goals. It was developed over the course of several months based upon information provided in interviews of ~45 prescribed fire/resource management experts throughout the East Gulf Coastal Plain, as well as guidance from the EGCPJV staff and board members concerning their mission, strengths and appropriate roles in promoting prescribed fire.

A Guide to Prescribed Fire in Southern Forests [1989]

Fire has played a major role in determining the distribution of plants across the South. Some plant communities such as cypress swamps survive for centuries between prolonged droughts that finally allow stand replacement fires to enter. Other communities such as the once vast expanse of longleaf pine burn every few years. In fact some ecosystems, for example the longleaf pine-wiregrass association, require periodic fire for their very survival.

A basic premise of fire ecology is that wildland fire is neither innately destructive nor constructive: it simply causes change. Whether these changes are viewed as desirable or not depends upon their compatibility with one’s objectives. Irrespective of man’s viewpoint, change is biologically necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Resource managers have learned to manipulate fire-caused changes in plant and animal communities to meet their needs, and those of humankind in general, while at the same time preserving underlying natural processes and functions. They do this by varying the timing, frequency, and intensity of fire.

Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

This is a 2012 update of the original 1966 guide. This guide provides basic information needed to help you become technically proficient in the proper planning and use of prescribed fire. A glossary toward the end of this manual will help with unfamiliar terms. To learn more about the subject of prescribed fire, a list of suggested readings follows the glossary.