Fire on the Forty
Prescribed burning is one of the most valuable practices available to manage native plant communities and thus the wildlife populations that inhabit fields and upland forests throughout much of the South. Through prescribed burning, fires are applied to the land in a deliberate and controlled manner to promote germination of beneficial forbs and grasses, reduce coverage of less desirable trees and shrubs, and decrease potential for destructive wildfires by reducing fuel loads. Although prescribed fire is a very important tool for forest and wildlife management, many private landowners are reluctant to use fire due to cost and liability concerns associated with burning.
The goal of the Fire on the Forty campaign is to promote the use of prescribed fire on privately owned fields and upland forests through outreach to educate landowners about the proper application of prescribed fire through hands-on workshops and by cost-sharing with private landowners to apply prescribed fire. The ultimate objective of the program is to increase fire maintained habitat in targeted geographical areas. Targeting efforts in a biologically significant area helps develop “habitat patches” in close proximity to one another so that less mobile wildlife, such as bobwhites and rabbits, can potentially travel between managed patches. Identifying focal areas also helps local biologists use resources more efficiently and increases the likelihood that neighboring landowners will become interested in prescribed burning. Finally, the program only has a finite amount of funding so targeting efforts helps us get more “bang for our buck.”
As part of the Fire on the Forty initiative, landowners may be reimbursed for funded projects in selected focal counties for 50% of costs for implementing and conducting prescribed fire up to a maximum of $12.50 per acre. Focal counties for the 2015/2016 funding cycle include Prentiss, Monroe, Lowndes, and Noxubee in north Mississippi, and Amite, Pike, Walthall, Marion, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Forest, Lamar, and Pearl River in south Mississippi. In 2015, the partners required additional funding to provide cost-share for burning longleaf pine forests on tracts anywhere within the historic range of longleaf.
Landowners must submit an application for entry into the program. The deadline for applications for the 2015 funding cycle is October 15, 2015. All applications will be competitively ranked based on potential habitat benefits and will be selected for funding by the Mississippi Partners for Fish and Wildlife. Once the deadline for applications within a funding cycle has passed, landowners may submit an applicaiton, but it will be help by the Fire on the Forty Steering Committee until a new funding cycle begins.
The Fire on the Forty Steering Committee has worked closely with the MDWFP, Mississippi Prescribed Fire Council, Mississippi Forestry Commission, Mississippi State University Extension Service, and other partners to develop workshops to introduce landowners to prescribed fire.
The “Fire on the Forty” initiative was made possible through funding from multiple sources including the US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Mississippi Forestry Commission. The program is administered by a committee of resource professionals from the MDWFP, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi State University, Wildlife Mississippi, Mississippi Forestry Commission, National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Foundation for Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.