Fire managers monitor the Coastal Prairies Prescribe Burn from the air. (NPS/Jennifer Brown)
Since 2018, fuels treatments along the southern border have not only helped in reducing the risk of unwanted or catastrophic wildfire, the initiative is also protecting natural and cultural resources on Federal and Tribal lands and facilitating national security operations carried out by the Department of Homeland Security.
Natural resource land managers and wildland firefighters use a variety of tools to accomplish their work along the southern border including prescribed fire and mechanical treatments to assist in removing the vegetation that can fuel wildfires.
A great example can be seen in Florida at the Everglades National Park. Along the west and south coasts of the park lies 2,429 miles of remote shoreline, a wilderness gateway located only three miles from the U.S. Border. This area is effectively an open access point for illegal activities to enter the United States. The shoreline is a fire-adapted ecosystem and requires fire to maintain its unique characteristics. Fire managers have historically used prescribed fire to reduce the risk of wildfires and to prevent the spread exotic plant species.
In Fiscal Year 2019, fire managers conducted prescribed burns on roughly 144,000 acres of the remote shoreline, reducing hazardous fuels and improving visibility for border security personnel. This means U.S. Border Patrol and Everglades National Park law enforcement ranger can do their jobs more safely and effectively across this remote landscape.
For more information about the Southern Border Fuels Initiative and to view an interactive map of ongoing projects across the country head to: doi.gov/wildlandfire/southern-border-fuels-management
Katy O’Hara is the Partnership Program Lead for the Office of Wildland Fire. Katy also serves as a Public Information Officer with the Pacific Northwest Type 1 Incident Management Teams and is an active member of the Navy Reserve.