Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Prescribed Burns Planned to Help Restore Native Grasslands on Austin’s Water Quality Protection Lands

The Austin Fire Department plans to conduct a prescribed burn on the Water Quality Protection Lands on Thursday and Friday, January 26-27, 2023. Smoke may be visible in the area as trained crews work. With favorable conditions in the forecast, crews plan to safely treat up to 55 acres with prescribed fire.
The Water Quality Protection Lands (WQPL) program actively manages more than 30,000 acres to benefit the quality and quantity of water recharging the Edwards Aquifer, which provides water to both Barton Springs and to groundwater wells in Hays and Travis Counties. Austin Water’s Wildland Conservation Division manages the lands.

“Prescribed fire is a key tool used to manage this land and improves the quality and quantity of groundwater entering the Edwards Aquifer,” said Matt Lore, Austin Water Wildland Conservation Division. “Beyond our core mission of improving groundwater quality in Central Texas, the use of prescribed fire also improve landscape resilience, promoting a diverse and vibrant ecosystem above the aquifer.” 
Prescribed burns mimic the natural fire cycle in a way that can be planned and organized to limit fire intensity. And by reducing accumulations of wildland fuels, these efforts serve both natural landscapes and human communities by reducing the intensity of potential wildfires. In savannah ecosystems such as those found on the WQPL, wildflowers and native grass communities flourish after prescribed fires. Wildlife also benefits. For example, immediately post-fire, grassland birds like quail and northern harrier hawks benefit from newly open habitat for nesting and feeding.
Prescribed burns are implemented with a great deal of care and planning. A team of trained professionals ensures that safety is their primary objective. Partnerships with agencies such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Wildflower Center, the Texas Forest Service, and Travis County Natural Resources as well as coordination with the Austin Fire Department, neighboring fire departments and emergency service districts may all contribute to successful prescribed burns.

All personnel meet specific training, experience, fitness and personal protective equipment requirements for the position they perform on the fireline. The prescription for each fire takes into account weather conditions– including wind and past precipitation – and requires specific parameters for the burn to ensure the fire behavior will meet objectives and can be safely controlled.
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