Keeping Firelines Cleared on SCCF Preserves

27 Jan 2021

Keeping Firelines Cleared for Wildlife at SCCF Preserves
Work has begun on clearing fire lines on SCCF properties. Prescribed fire season typically begins in March or April and lasts until the rainy season begins. Fire lines provide access to the fire units that perform these burns and become active wildlife corridors.
 
Several SCCF conservation lands east of Tarpon Bay Road have dried out significantly from the summer rains. Staff is currently working on Frannie’s Preserve and the C. R. Johnston Tract, as well as small sections of the Sanibel Gardens and Erick Lindblad Preserves where it is sufficiently dry.
SCCF Conservation Steward Victor Young and Field Technician Dustin Lucas have been diligently working on getting these passageways open for the upcoming prescribed fire season. The equipment primarily being used is the skid-steer loader with various attachments to cut down shrubs and small trees and move debris. Hand-cutting of overhanging branches is done with pole saws and chain saws. The use of both heavy equipment and hand-held tools makes this task very efficient.
 
Wildlife such as bobcats (Lynx rufus), otters (Lutra canadensis), raccoons (Procyon lotor), and Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are often seen using these fire lines to traverse the properties. “When fire lines run through densely wooded areas, many forms of wildlife see that cleared path as edge habitat (where two habitats meet),” explained SCCF Director of Wildlife & Habitat Management Chris Lechowicz. “Edge habitat is often productive for viewing wildlife because animals use it as a quick route for accessing different habitats.” For example, black racer snakes (Coluber constrictor) are often seen basking in the sun on open passageways. However, if a human or predator approaches, they quickly move to the densely wooded area off the path.
 
“Although our fire lines were created to control wildfires and for controlled burning, these pathways are beneficial to wildlife, especially on closed properties where there is minimal human disturbance,” Lechowicz said.