Snap, crackle, pop®! The Nature Conservancy bringing back Alabama’s longleaf pine forest with fire

Have you ever listened to a bowl of Rice Krispies ®  after you pour milk on top of it?

Snap, crackle, pop®!

Last week, Bham Now got to witness  a controlled burn “lit” by The Nature Conservancy in Alabama (TNC) on the Kathy Stiles Freeland Bibb County Glades Preserve .

That sound – the snap, crackle, pop – is sweet music to the ears for people dedicated to enhancing wildlife and bringing back  rare plants and animals, and the South’s longleaf pine forest.

Throughout Alabama, The Nature Conservancy is conducting the symphony.

For several generations, the American public was told that all forest fires were bad for nature.  They are not.

Some forests, such as longleaf pine forests, depend on fire to thrive, and because we suppressed fire for decades, longleaf pine, which use to cover millions of acres in the Southeast, almost disappeared from the landscape. By safely reintroducing fire, through controlled burns, the longleaf forest is coming back.

“Alabama longleaf forests are born in fire, maintained by fire and without it, they will disappear,” said Roger W. Mangham, state director for the Conservancy’s Alabama chapter.

More about the benefits of controlled burns and the importance of fire from Mangham:

In a nutshell, regular controlled burns of fire-tolerant longleaf pine forests help eliminate competition from understory vegetation which  helps fuel the growth of wildlife food sources such as native grasses, wildflowers and forbs.  Grasses and wildflowers filter sediment, retains and stores rainfall and improves water quality in our rivers and streams.

It’s not easy work, but the controlled burn “symphony” is led by a “Burn Boss” the leader and manager of the controlled burn crew. TNC’s  “boss” in Alabama, Keith Tassin, has been doing burns for 20 years.

Within The Nature Conservancy’s Fire Learning Network, Tassin led the most controlled burns from 2014 – 2016.

TNC’s “Burn Boss” Keith Tassin

“While today’s burn was conducted solely by Conservancy staff, we work in partnership with private landowners and state and federal partners to conduct as many controlled burns as possible during the burn season,” said Tassin.

Mangham added, “burn plans identify the desired conditions under which trees and other plants will burn to get the best result safely.  Strict procedures provide for the safety of the crew, nearby residents and private property. Conditions such as weather, wind and soil moisture must be just right before any controlled burn is conducted.”

The Nature Conservancy is dedicated to bringing back the longleaf forest and Alabama’s natural ecosystems.  Although, it’s hard work, through partnerships and coordination with communities, we will all benefit.

Bibb County Alabama

Photo of TNC’s Breanna Renee Ryan. This is Breanna’s first season with the Conservancy. She has experience with an Idaho Fuel Module and is from Arizona.
Mountain longleaf pine trees in Bibb County

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.