Using fire on a Florida cattle ranch conserving wildlife
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Using fire on a Florida cattle ranch conserving wildlife

December 25, 2019


In spring 2016, a prescribed burn was conducted on Blackbeard’s Ranch – an expanse of marsh, pasture, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks in central Florida. White-tailed deer, black bear and other wildlife roam this 4,500-acre ranch near the Myakka River that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Cattle are herded by men on horseback. It feels like a scene from the 19th century. Yet this is a working cattle ranch of the 21st century. Jim Strickland is ranch manager and part-owner. He shoulders dual responsibilities: managing working lands in a fast-growing state and maintaining the land’s legacy as a home for native wildlife. “Well, today we’re doing a much needed controlled burn here on Blackbeard’s Ranch. “This is a new purchase and thank goodness we’ve met with the FWC Landowner Assistance Program … “They’ve put together an overall plan for the ranch. This is the first phase of that management plan – this controlled burn today” Jim’s partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Landowner Assistance Program began in 2015, when an LAP biologist provided a Conservation Stewardship Plan for wildlife habitat conservation and management at the ranch. “So, whether it’s cattle grazing; whether it’s harvesting pine timber… “We also harvest sable palms for replanting in different areas of the state “But that plan actually entails all of those. “Our main focus is conservation and also wildlife enhancement.” “Good morning.” Landowners have various options for conducting a burn. Today, the boots on the ground come from the Florida Forest Service, the FWC, ranch staff and the Myakka City Fire Department. Having sufficient and experienced staff, and proper equipment on site, can help ensure a safe burn. LAP biologist Regional Administrator Luis Gonzalez planned the burn and assisted the crew. He coordinated the partners. “We will start our prescribed burn on… Burn boss Mike Keegan of the Forest Service conducts the safety briefing: “The Wildlife Commission wrote a management plan, they set up… • Going over the burn prescription • Making crew assignments “Willie and Brett, you’ll be in my vehicle. You’ll be safety officers taking weather…” • Explaining critical safety procedures Safety for the crew – and ensuring the burn itself will be safely contained — are always paramount. Days before the burn, fire lines were established to create a containment perimeter for the area to be burned. Now, a test fire is lit with drip torches to determine if conditions are suitable. Only when the fire’s behavior is deemed OK will the burn proceed. LAP biologists are among the partners bringing a toolbox of resources to the task. They have:
• Knowledge about cost-sharing opportunities; • They’ve been trained at the state’s “burn schools.” • And have expertise on planning and coordinating successful burns under a variety of conditions. • The ranch, for example, hadn’t been burned for at least 8 years, leading to the decision to limit the burn size. • At Blackbeard’s Ranch, the burn methods are selected to address its range of habitats and to meet the needs of both commercial operations and wildlife conservation. The burn clears out brush and small trees. The burned vegetation replenishes nutrients in the soil. The result? Sprouting of new plant life and opening up of the land which benefits grazing cattle and provides food and shelter for wildlife such as burrowing owl and bobwhite quail. Landowners play a critical role in helping conserve Florida’s wildlife for future generations. “Well everybody asks me, ‘Why did you name it after a pirate? Why did you name it Blackbeard’s Ranch?'” “Well in the old days, Blackbeard and Gasparilla, the pirates that plied the Caribbean, used to come up here. One of the folklore is, and I put a little truth to it, is that Blackbeard used to come up the Myakka River and either turn left to the Gulf, or turn right to come onto this ranch, and so the folklore is that Blackbeard’s treasure is buried on this ranch. I’ll take it one further. I think that the real treasure of Blackbeard is the land and the cabbage palms, and the oak hammocks, and the sloughs, and this whole Mayakka prairie. Now, that’s what I think Blackbeard’s treasure is.” (music)

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  1. That is lie,beneficial for cattle busines,not for wild life animal's how many animals y vegetation you guys kill staring fires..hummm

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