Article and Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
UF / IFAS School of Forest Resources & Conservation along with other conservation organizations and forestry-related agencies held an annual Flatwoods Fire and Nature Festival on Saturday, January 26 in Gainesville, FL.
Establishing a conservation ethos, Scott Sager, Undergrad Programs Coordinator and ACF Forester with Austin Cary Forest stated, “As the public is becoming more aware of prescribed burns and how these burns benefit a variety of ecosystems and wildlife, festivals like these give the public the opportunity to not only educate themselves but their children as well.”
The festival was held at the beautiful Austin Cary Forest in Gainesville, FL with 2,600 acres of longleaf-slash pine and a mixture of ecosystems, makes this forest uniquely rich in resources.
“The Austin Cary Forest primary objective is to support the teaching, research, and outreach extension activities of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Scott Sager said.
Sager also explained that they use the forest to teach about basic forest science, carbon storage, evaporation, water uptake, hydrology, nutrients, fire regimes, social sciences, how people relate to the forest and environmental education.
“That is really the point of the forest, and obviously this event really fits in perfectly with that mission, to be able to introduce people who have limited or no exposure to prescribe fire previously,” Sager said. “This is why we do it, and this is really an ideal event for an organized program facility like we have.”
This festival gave many visitors a first-hand look at what the School of Forest Resources and Conservation is all about, and may bring interest to younger generations as a future career option.
“We sort of allowed being interested in the environment to become a hobby, that is fantastic but understand that there is a whole suite of professions where you can actually do this as a full-time job,” said Sager.
Each one of the 20 plus agencies and organizations offered a vast amount of information for the public, as well as a prescribed burn demonstration and a tram ride through the heart of the forest. “For the inaugural year of us hosting this, we wouldn't dream of it going as well as it did,” Sager said. “And I am looking forward do it again.”
The event was definitely worth the trip and for those that missed it, make plans for attending the festival in 2021.
More information about School of Forest Resources and Conservation visit their website at http://sfrc.ufl.edu/