Prescribed Burn Marks Milestone in Conservation Efforts

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In a historic act for the Nature Center, staff and other members of a burn team recently conducted a long-planned prescribed burn.
Prescribed burn smoke seen from the vantage point of a kayak on the West Fork of the Trinity River. Photo by FWNC&R Staff.

In a historic moment for the City of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge recently conducted its largest prescribed burn to date. Spanning 246 acres within the area of the Refuge known as “Cross Timbers,” this prescribed burn not only sets a record for the City but also marks the first time Nature Center staff have burned the Refuge’s old-growth forest.

The Nature Center’s Cross Timbers forest — the first forest in Texas to join the Old-Growth Forest Network — primarily consists of post oaks and blackjack oaks that are estimated to be more than 250 years old. Historically, fire occurred at four-year intervals within the Cross Timbers vegetative subregion, which prevented the encroachment of invasive species and helped maintain an open understory. Although these benefits have long been understood by Nature Center staff, attempting a prescribed burn of this magnitude required years of careful planning, training, and thoughtful coordination with local fire departments.

The Cross Timbers burn team. Photo by FWNC&R Staff.

This prescribed burn was carried out on March 5 by four staff members from the Nature Center, two Fort Worth Fire Department firefighters, 14 participants from Tarrant County College’s Fire Academy, and three volunteers. Jared Hall, Natural Resource Specialist for the City of Fort Worth, served as the burn manager. Adding a touch of ceremony to the occasion, Wayne Clark, former Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge Director, was bestowed the honor of igniting the fire. Clark’s dedication to conservation efforts and his instrumental role in shaping the Nature Center’s land management initiatives make his involvement in this historic burn particularly poignant.

Wayne Clark, former Nature Center Director, initially lights the burn. Photo by FWNC&R Staff.

As the charred landscape visible from Cross Timbers Trail begins to rejuvenate from successfully being burned, visitors should be reminded that the Nature Center’s commitment to conservation remains steadfast. With each prescribed burn, the Nature Center takes another step toward safeguarding its natural resources and ensuring the resilience of its sensitive ecosystems in the face of both biotic and environmental challenges.

By Jared Wood, Acting Manager, Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

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