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Central Appalachians FLN Annual Workshop

More than 80 participants, representing 21 di erent organization and agency units, gathered in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for the annual two-day workshop of the Central Appalachians Fire Learning Network (FLN).
Central Appalachians FLN Annual Workshop

Adam Christie and Ryan Klopf (Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation) led a discussion on management of re and sinkhole ponds at Mount Joy Pond Natural Area Preserve.

People came from across the network’s four landscapes in Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as from North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Consistent with this year’s theme—Bridging the Gap: Managing the Ecological Needs and Social Perceptions of Fire in the Central Appalachians—discussions centered on the integrated management of controlled burns and wild res to meet ecological needs, and on social perceptions of re, including the need for improved public engagement to support further scaling- up restoration work.

The first day’s agenda was rich with varied content and interactive sessions. Lessons from the Rocky Mount wildfire in Shenandoah National Park were shared by a diverse panel that covered public engagement challenges and successes as well as planning and management strategies.

The interactive Talking Fire session gave participants guidelines for telling a good story—followed by small-group exercises for practicing messaging techniques. Jenifer Bunty of the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists (CAFMS) also gave a presentation on the Fire Learning Trail in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Signage along this enhanced interpretive trail is supplemented with entertaining podcasts in which local re practitioners introduce visitors to the role of re in the area.

“Flash presentations” on research high-lighted fire’s role in American chestnut restoration (Matthew Vaughn, Texas A&M), fire scar and charcoal records in a rare Appalachian pitch pine bog (Dr. Lisa Kennedy and Chance Raso, Virginia Tech) and a synthesis of research from the Fire in Eastern Oak Forests Conference (Helen Mohr, USFS/CAFMS).

During the Technology Café session, app guru Jason Hattersley (USFS) encouraged participants to pull out their smart phones and tablets to learn and practice tech- niques for distributing and using geo- referenced maps on hand-held devices. John Moncure (USFS) shared tips for making highly effective incident maps. Participants received a QR code link that downloaded Avenza maps to their phones, allowing for group participation during the indoor session—and practical application on the next day’s field trip.

Wrapping up the day, breakout sessions permitted small group dialog on building capacity for monitoring and future research needs. This time also provided space for the initial meeting of the new Grasslands Working Group.

Discussions of media and public engagement were carried into the field on the second day, as participants visited three sites with different themes to explore. One site had recently seen a wild fire in designated Wilderness; the next was a shortleaf pine restoration project with both prescribed burn and mechanical treatment components; and a third demonstrated the use of fire to promote rare and endemic species in Shenandoah Valley sinkhole ponds.

In closing, the annual Partnership Award was presented to Steve Croy, Ecologist and Fire Planner for George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Steve was instrumental in planning the initial workshop of fire management partners across the Appalachians in 2006, which led to the formation of the Central Appalachians and Southern Blue Ridge regional FLNs. He has played a major role in planning and helping to fund fire history research across the region and spearheaded the application of spatial tools, models and mapping that has helped prioritize the FLN’s efforts to restore good fire on the landscape across agency boundaries. His tireless work on the ground also takes to the air: on any aerial ignition burn conducted over the past 10 years, Steve was probably in the helicopter or otherwise coordinating it.

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