Reducing wildfire risk and improving ecosystem health on Lake Okeechobee

MOORE HAVEN — As Lake Okeechobee’s water level drops to fifteen feet, the Florida Forest Service in collaboration with South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a series of prescribed burns around the western shore of Lake Okeechobee, weather permitting.

The initial burn will consist of approximately 2,000-acres of dried-out marsh rimming the lake between the Indian Prairie Canal boat ramp and the Buckhead Ridge Canal. The Florida Forest Service plans to conduct the burn within the next two weeks. The final decision to burn is made daily, after reviewing the Predicted Fire Weather forecast.

“In anticipation of drier weather, the Florida Forest Service wants to prevent the outbreak and spread of wildfires to the communities along the rim of Lake Okeechobee,” explains Forest Area Supervisor Joe deBree, Florida Forest Service. “Prescribed burning is one of the most effective tools we have in reducing hazardous fuel accumulation and encouraging the new growth of native vegetation in marshes.”

Prescribed burns around the edges of the lake will provide breeding and feeding grounds for fish, wading birds, and other wildlife. Within a few weeks of the prescribed fire, new vegetation will emerge from the nutrient enriched, ash soil to help create a more desirable habitat for spawning bass and other game fish in the marshes, as well as providing a home for birds such as the endangered Everglades Snail Kite.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland, and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

For questions about burn authorizations and wildfire prevention, please contact your local Florida Forest Service at 863-674-4000.

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