Conserving Alabama State Parks: When fires and extra pollen become a good thing

(Photo From Alabama State Parks)
Tasha Simon, Chief of the Natural Resources Section for the State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), is shown assisting with a prescribed fire at Gulf State Park. (Alabama State Parks)

There are 21 state parks across Alabama and there is a lot of effort that goes into keeping everything in good shape. From the trails and nature you see on your visits to things you may never encounter, conservation of the parks is a constant job.

Let’s take a closer look at what officials do to keep these parks healthy and why what they do is so important.

‘There is such a thing as a good fire’

You have almost certainly seen smoke coming from an area around a state park and if you’re like most people, your very first thought is to be concerned about what’s going on and what’s being damaged. But often, that smoke is coming from a prescribed burn with experts closely paying attention to what is on fire and how long the flames last.

(Photo From Alabama State Parks)
Tasha Simon, Chief of the Natural Resources Section for the State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), is shown assisting with a prescribed fired along the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail at DeSoto State Park. (Alabama State Parks)

According to Alabama State Parks, prescribed fire can be an important land and wildlife management tool. For example, a prescribed burn along the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail at DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne was used in 2021. After the burn, more sunlight was able to reach the ground which encouraged the return of the lady slipper, a rare pink orchid, to the landscape.

“We want the public to know that there is such a thing as good fire… One of our objectives for using prescribed fire is to reduce excessive amounts of vegetative fuel on the ground and to decrease the risk of wildfire. Prescribed fire is also used as a tool to control or manage invasive species, to maintain biodiversity and to stimulate the growth of new vegetation.”

~ Tasha Simon, Chief of the Natural Resources Section for the State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Simon will coordinate with several other agencies before any prescribed burn begins. Specific weather conditions are also needed. There are already several prescribed burns on the calendar for this year.

  • Gulf
  • DeSoto
  • Frank Jackson
  • Lakepoint
  • Lake Guntersville
  • Oak Mountain
Cheaha State Park
(Jacob Blankenship / The Bama Buzz)

Other conservation efforts

While some days may call for prescribed burning, a more publicly noticeable form of preservation, there is plenty more to be done to keep the state parks healthy.

  • Controlling invasive species
  • Placing pollinator gardens
  • Fostering recreational fishing

“These conservation efforts are required so that the natural habitats within our state parks can flourish. The beauty of our parks system is sustained through these efforts and improves the experience for each visitor. The support of our partners and the public plays a vital role in allowing us to do this work.”

~ Tasha Simon, Chief of the Natural Resources Section for the State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

A lot of the conservation efforts are made easier through the support of local communities which funds most of the state parks’ operations. There are several ways to support the state parks including:

Desoto State Park
Desoto State Park (John Dersham President/CEO/ DeKalb Tourism)

Will you be heading to one of the 21 Alabama State Parks this year? Post it to social media and tag The Bama Buzz on InstagramXFacebook + LinkedIn!

Caleb Turrentine
Caleb Turrentine
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