Arkansas Forestry Industry Manages Wildfire Threat

 August 18, 2017

The wood basket of the world is made up of 13 states in the southeast United States, and two territories, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This southern group of foresters works together to produce more commercial timber than any other region in the world. In order to remain the top producer, professional foresters have to manage the forests across the south and protect them from the dangers of wildfires.

Arkansas’ wood basket is well equipped for protection from costly wildfires through responsible forest management. Overall, forest health in Arkansas is the most important factor in protecting the state’s timber from wildfires. The healthier the forest, the less likely it is that a wildfire can race through it. Other factors that influence forest management include education, varieties of plant species and climate.  

While the state faces the same challenges as other regions and countries, certain levels of risk are much lower because a large percentage of forestland in Arkansas is privately owned. Landowners in Arkansas are well educated when it comes to managing forest health and typically work quickly with the Division of Agriculture and others in the forest industry to address forest health issues head on. 

In addition, the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) has invested education and money into rural communities to help prevent wildfires through the Rural Fire Protection Program. Through the program, more than 1,800 Federal Excess vehicles are on loan to fire departments across the state. Last year, over $9 million worth of Federal Excess Property was made available to Arkansas fire departments through the program. The AFC also loaned more than $600,000, interest free, for the purchase of fire equipment through the revolving loan program.

Arkansas’ diverse woodland habitat also plays a huge role in preventing and controlling wildfires. The state is home to a variety of plant species of different ages. Having a variety of species can help slow down the spread of wildfire. 

One of the biggest factors that can help control wildfires is climate. Arkansas’ humid subtropical climate keeps wildfires at bay because of the general high humidity. This excess moisture in the air helps officials get ahead of wildfires before they take over more land.

Wildfires are dangerous, costly and can be very difficult to control. However, not all fires are detrimental to our forests. There are many benefits to a prescribed fire. These fires are strategically planned and carefully managed. Flames from a prescribed burn are slow moving, low to the ground and planned to burn in a specific direction.

These prescribed fires are used to accomplish specific conservation and land management objectives for healthy forests and grasslands. In Arkansas, prescribed burns are conducted by officials from an array of conservation and land management agencies, and by landowners and companies. Benefits of these fires include hazardous fuel reduction, wildlife habitat improvement, planting and regeneration, vegetation control and ecosystem/ecological restoration. 

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