Natural fire is a very important part of the Cumberland Island ecosystem. Several species and communities cannot exist without it. Even live oaks benefit from fire. The wetlands rely on fire to control encroaching vegetation and remove accumulated organic material during dry spells. Because of the lack of fire, colonial nesting wading birds have had to forsake the island as a nesting site. Wood storks once nested heavily on Cumberland Island, but a lack of fire has allowed vegetation to encroach upon their nesting sites and made predation easier. As a result, wood storks—along with egrets and night herons—no longer nest on the island.
The scrub forest community on Cumberland Island also depends on fire. It is an association of fire-adapted plants (primarily palmetto, stagger bush, pine and bays) that composes a large portion of the north end of the island. Without periodic hot fires, the community would lose much of its biodiversity.
The fire history of the scrub forest community shows a major burn every 25 to 30 years. However, the National Park Service’s full fire suppression policy on Cumberland Island has interrupted this natural cycle. Continued fire suppression endangers the island’s ecological health.
The island needs a new fire management plan that allows natural fires to burn—especially in the wilderness. A let-burn fire policy would still protect residences and historic structures; they are always protected fully under any fire management plan.
Fire plays an essential role in all of the island ecosystems; without it, the islands flora and fauna continue to suffer. Fire is essential for natural evolution of the island’s forest community. Having a natural fire regime is important for maintaining the ecosystem and for compliance with wilderness management guidelines.
Please take a moment to take action on this issue by sending this form letter to our National Park Service representatives.
To send the form letter, please follow these simple instructions:
1. Click the button below.
2. The form letter is password-protected to reduce spam. The password is “cumberland.”
3. Read the letter. Enter your name, email and zip code.
Visit our Island Issues page for more issues affecting Cumberland Island.