5,000 acres of dried marsh near Moore Haven burned

OKEECHOBEE – Crews from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) burned approximately 5,000 acres of dried marsh along the southwestern rim of Lake Okeechobee on April 4. This is all part of the ongoing effort to restore the ecology and habitat of the lake.

The burn took place along the rim of the lake between the Moore Haven Canal and McTush Cut. It is the second prescribed burn conducted on the lake this year. In March the district participated in a prescribed burn of about 2,000 acres near Buckhead Ridge.“Continuing to burn when conditions permit is crucial to restoring Lake Okeechobee,” said SFWMD

Bureau Chief for Land Resources Rory Feeney. “This second prescribed lake burn of 2018 will help reduce plant biomass and stimulate habitat renewal for thousands of wildlife species that call the lake home. The district would like to thank our state and federal partners for collaborating to help conduct this burn safely and with minimal impact on the communities near and around the lake.”

Prescribed burns around the shallow portions of the lake improve habitat and breeding grounds for fish, waterfowl, wading birds and other wildlife. Prescribed burns remove decaying vegetation and other debris that would otherwise cover the bottom of the lake and impede the growth of new plants.

The Florida Forest Service acted as the lead agency for today’s burn, with SFWMD, FWC and USACE providing support on the ground and by helicopter. In order to minimize the chances of any impact to neighboring communities, the burn was conducted during a time when weather conditions, such as prevailing winds, were suitable and expected to carry the smoke over the lake and away from homes.

The district is also took steps to protect wildlife, including any threatened or endangered species, near the burn area.

A Florida Forest Service engine ensured the fire stayed inside the dike. Firefighters watched for changing winds and spot fires.

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