Veterans Bring Fire Power to Grand Bay
“Some of the National Wildlife Refuge land around the Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center hasn’t been burned in a long time,” says Sandra Huynh, Grand Bay’s director’s assistant. “The veterans have been awesome—energetic and fully able to do this kind of work. They are the kind of volunteers you can rely on.”
The long-term management goal is to restore Grand Bay to its historic condition of being an open longleaf pine savanna with a diverse plant community. This requires repeated fires over a long period of time to open up the understory and encourage growth of warm season grasses and other plants. A grant-sponsored partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, Wildlife Mississippi, Student Conservation Association, and the Grand Bay Reserve was able to focus the Corp’s energy on this challenging goal.
“It is not glamorous work, but it is another tool we use to open up the landscape, and each crew member was moving on to a job where chainsaw skills were needed,” observes Jonathan Pitchford, Grand Bay’s stewardship coordinator. “Of course, we also hope that they walked away with a better understanding of why they were doing the work and thinking about other conservation avenues they could explore.”
In all, the Corps helped burned a total of 873 acres at Grand Bay this past year. Reserve staff and their partners broke up the work with discussions of the management goals for the activity at hand, helped familiarize veterans with the local plants and animals, and talked to them about research and monitoring.