The Lake Wales Ridge Prescribed Fire Strike Team
   Tricia Martin, The Nature Conservancy

Abstract: This project proposes to deploy an ecosystem-wide, fire strike team to restore and maintain healthy scrub and related habitats along the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida. Ridge habitats support a variety of wildlife including: Florida black bear, Florida mouse, Florida panther, Sherman’s fox squirrel, Lake Wales Ridge tiger beetle, blue-tailed mole skink, eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, Florida pine snake, sand skink, scrub lizard, short-tailed snake, gopher frog, scrub-jays, and bald eagles. Completing prescribed burns will provide direct benefits to the natural communities and their associated species, and will also bring secondary benefits that help pave the way for successful management in the future. When the Fire Strike Team assists in burning areas that have been fire suppressed for decades, the fuel loads that are realistically terrifying will be brought down. When the fuels are lowered from 80 feet tall to 15 feet tall, the complexity of burning these areas will be reduced. The objectives of the Lake Wales Ridge Prescribed Fire Strike Team are: (1.) Reduce the backlog of overgrown fuels to restore Ridge habitat. (2.) Hire, train and supervise a crew to work with the two year-round fire leaders and agency managers to accomplish prescribed burns. (3.) Expand the number of sites on which the team works. (4.) Maximize the number of acres burned, weather permitting. (5.) Create GIS maps of the site and units burned. The Prescribed Fire Strike Team will be structured to maximize safety, ecological effectiveness and interagency cooperation. An interagency steering committee will guide the work of the Prescribed Fire Strike Team. The steering committee brings together experts in prescribed fire, the Lake Wales Ridge ecosystem, US Fish and Wildlife Service staff and local land managers. Activities of the Prescribed Fire Strike Team will be directly supervised by The Nature Conservancy. Two members of the Conservancy’s permanent fire staff will be assigned to the project and four seasonal staff will be added to conduct the burns. All prescribed burns will be conducted in accordance with state and federal fire planning, training, permitting and operational standards as defined by the Florida Division of Forestry and the National Interagency Wildfire Coordinating Group. When the crew is not burning, equipment maintenance and burn unit preparation are the priorities.

Award Matching Funds Total
$36,907.50 $36,907.50 $73,815.00

Year Funded Starting Date Ending Date
2005, 2006 7/1/2007 8/15/2008

Location: Highlands, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties