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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

Dec. 7, 2012

DNR forester, wildlife biologist speaks on ‘People and Fire’ at fire conference in Alberta, Canada

A noted expert on prescribed fire from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources recently addressed the Wildland Fire Canada conference in Alberta, a biennial conference that focuses on forest fire management and provides a unique balance of presentations from forest fire managers and the scientific community.

Johnny Stowe, a wildlife biologist, forester and Heritage Preserve manager with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in Columbia, was an invited keynote speaker for the opening session of the Wildland Fire Canada conference Oct. 2, and he also addressed two smaller gatherings later in the week.

“When I heard Johnny speak at the Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in Spokane, Washington, a couple of years ago, it struck me that he had a remarkable ability to marry fire history, ecology and anthropology in anControlled burn incredibly engaging way,” said Jane Park, with Parks Canada in Banff, Alberta. “So this year, when I was asked to help organize a theme called ‘People and Fire’ at the Wildland Fire Canada conference, I naturally thought of Johnny. The fire history in Banff National Park goes back to First Nations’ burning of meadows for the purposes of drawing game animals to the valley bottoms. While fire was absent from Banff National Park for nearly a century, the current fire program is striving to re-introduce fire onto a fire-prone landscape, much like the work that Johnny and his colleagues are doing for the longleaf pine ecosystem.

“During his stay in Canada, Johnny’s charismatic, informative and very entertaining talks garnered a lot of attention from conference attendees and Parks Canada staff alike,” Park said. “Many people who had little to no background in fire use learned a lot and were very engaged by what Johnny had to say.”

Stowe, a past chair of the S.C. Prescribed Fire Council, and longtime advocate for and practitioner of prescribed burning on Heritage Preserves in the Palmetto State, told Canadian conference-goers that fire has been a paramount natural and cultural process shaping the Southeastern United States for many millennia. Fires ignited by lightning, and those set by the First Nations, and much later by African and European settlers, have uniquely sculpted the Southland—its soils and waters, plants and animals, and its people. Stowe discussed current conditions and challenges to managing prescribed fire and wildlife, including the South’s swelling population, loss of rural values and increasingly fragmented landscape, as well as positive developments he hopes to see continue and grow.

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