Fire lines being cleared on SCCF preserves
Work has begun on clearing fire lines on the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s properties, officials reported. Prescribed fire season typically begins in March or April and lasts until the rainy season begins. Fire lines provide access to the fire units that perform these burns and become active wildlife corridors.
Several SCCF conservation lands east of Tarpon Bay Road have dried out significantly from the summer rains. Staff is currently working on Frannie’s Preserve and the C. R. Johnston Tract, as well as small sections of the Sanibel Gardens and Erick Lindblad Preserves where it is sufficiently dry.
SCCF Conservation Steward Victor Young and field technician Dustin Lucas have been working on getting the passageways open for the upcoming prescribed fire season. The equipment primarily being used is the skid-steer loader with various attachments to cut down shrubs and small trees and move debris. Hand-cutting of overhanging branches is done with pole saws and chain saws.
Wildlife such as bobcats, otters, raccoons and Virginia opossums are often seen using the fire lines to traverse the properties.
“When fire lines run through densely wooded areas, many forms of wildlife see that cleared path as edge habitat (where two habitats meet),” SCCF Director of Wildlife & Habitat Management Chris Lechowicz said. “Edge habitat is often productive for viewing wildlife because animals use it as a quick route for accessing different habitats.”
For example, black racer snakes are often seen basking in the sun on open passageways. However, if a human or predator approaches, they quickly move to the densely wooded area off the path.
“Although our fire lines were created to control wildfires and for controlled burning, these pathways are beneficial to wildlife, especially on closed properties where there is minimal human disturbance,” he said.