The Nature Conservancy hosts the University of Montana Prescribed Fire Practicum on the Chattahoochee Fall Line

The Nature Conservancy hosts the University of Montana Prescribed Fire Practicum on the Chattahoochee Fall Line

By George Matusick, The Nature Conservancy

In January 2016, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) hosted The University of Montana’s Prescribed Fire Practicum on the Chattahoochee Fall Line (CFL) near Fort Benning, GA. This 9-year partnership, historically held at Moody Forest near Baxley, GA, was moved to CFL where there is a great need for dormant season burning. The desired burn season around Moody Forest has gradually shifted to growing season burns largely due to the successful results of the Practicum.

The Practicum is offered as part of the Fire Sciences and Management minor in the College of Forestry and Conservation. This intensive, two-week, field course provides the next generation of land managers, in a field dominated by fire suppression and exclusion, with technical training, practical applications, and theoretical foundations in ecological burning. The Practicum also provides TNC and the Interagency Burn Team organizations significant manpower to conduct prescribed burns.

The Practicum assisted burns on 844 acres on the Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area. Students were exposed to a wide range of forest and fuels conditions, including cutover areas in preparation for longleaf pine planting, fuels reduction in young longleaf pine plantations, and re-introducing fire to longleaf pine forests that have not experienced fire in over 60 years. For many students this was their first time to the region, handling a drip torch, and leading squads on the fireline. The class was a success, providing an invaluable experience for the students and placing more ecologically valuable acres under fire management on the Fall Line.

Image 1:  University of Montana Prescribed Fire Practicum students implement a fuel reduction burn on the Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area in Marion County, Georgia. Photo by Geoffrey Sorrell.