President’s Corner – March 2024 – Prescribed Burns

Each year around this time, several different agencies throughout our area and around the state perform their annual prescribed burns. For those of us who have been here a while, we may recognize the big wall of smoke on our western border that may be a bit disconcerting at times, but, is necessary for the healthy and beneficial management of our native vegetative habitat and scrub areas. We are currently in the process of performing a couple of larger burns within the Viera Wilderness Park (the conservation land on our western border), so I am sure some of you have seen the smoke from these fires.

Prescribed fires are conducted in order to comply with the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRMWD) Environmental Resource Permit (ERP), the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) Individual Permit (IP), the Viera Wilderness Park Habitat Management Plan (HMP), and the Viera Development of Regional Impact (DRI). The Habitat Management Plan requires about 1,000 acres of conservation land to be managed each year through prescribed burns. And, this is the time of year when it is generally conducted as it is not the rainy season and the weather is more agreeable to this activity.

The following information is taken from our Prescribed Fire Management Brochure used to educate and inform our residents about the practice of prescribed burns and why we do them.

First, fire is a natural and necessary process that native Florida vegetation depends on. It is important for the survival of many species of plants and animals. If humans were not here to put out fires, this is the process that nature would use to maintain our natural environment. The benefits of fire and fire replication include:

  • Reducing wildfire fuel load. This can prevent conditions which are conducive to devastating wildfires.
  • Providing herbaceous groundcover for more wildlife food value and promoting flowering and fruiting of plant species by returning nutrients to the soil.
  • Recovering/improving areas of native vegetation naturally overtime for the benefit of wildlife species.
  • Elimination of plant specific pathogens that reduce growth and kill trees.

During my orientation classes, I often get asked about the wildlife that is displaced during the process and what is done to protect their habitat. During a prescribed burn, the slow-moving flames are carefully planned and managed to allow animals time to shelter or move away from the fire. These fires are not left to burn out of control – trained and certified people carefully and slowly manage the direction and pace of the burn. With every prescribed burn, a detailed, area specific burn plan must be created. Included in this burn plan are specifications of how the burn will be conducted, a description of the area, required weather conditions, list of personnel and equipment, and emergency contacts. Prior to a prescribed burn being performed, the Burn Manager must secure the necessary permits and establish fire breaks through either man-made means or by using natural fire breaks such as rivers, ditches, or swamps.

Prescribed Burns are just one of the many sustainable environmental practices employed in Viera to ensure our sensitive conservation areas are protected and preserved in perpetuity. For those interested in exploring the full measure of the Habitat Management Plan, you can find the entire Plan here.

So, until next time, please remember … “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

Eva M. Rey, President
Central Viera Community Association, Inc.