Okefenokee/Osceola Local Implementation Team - When Opportunity Knocks

February 12, 2015 Image 2 Pa290041 Thumb

By Alan Dozier, Okefenokee/Osceola Local Implementation Team

In September 2014 the Okefenokee and Osceola Local Implementation Team (O2LIT) recognized that the Georgia Forestry Commission had purchased several forestry mowing machines and begun to mow understory for private landowners.  Naturally it followed that a partner with this capacity, through participation on the local implementation team, could be instrumental in restoring understory and helping private landowners to get prescribed fire returned to the forest.  Utilizing funding from the NFWF LSF, a contract was set with the Georgia Forestry Commission for 225 acres of understory mowing.

In October 2014, the Georgia Forestry Commission conducted an incident command system training exercise within the Okefenokee/Osceola SGA.  The objective of the event was to refresh the GFC Type II incident management team and to provide opportunities to train future team leaders.

Nearly 100 Georgia Forestry Commission team members and mentors arrived at Waycross, GA and began to organize the wildfire training exercise.  Fires were intentionally set on Dixon State Forest with the intent of being extinguished by fire suppression helicopters.   The team was also given a list of 32 landowners who had been designated for understory mowing under our LSF contract.  We met with the team, described the project and the contract, described how accomplishments were to be reported, and set priorities for selecting sites to mow.

All in all, understory fuels were reduced on 180 priority acres during the two day exercise. Some 75 incident management team members were able to update certifications and hone their skill, team administrators and training officers were able to identify opportunities for improvement in team performance, and two of our major private landowners within the one mile fire buffer priority area for 02LIT received assistance with fuel reductions.  Partnerships were reinforced across the board.

Image 1:  GFC Ranger mows a young longleaf stand as part of the Incident Management Team training exercise. Photo by Alan Dozier.

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