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Painting the Landscape with Fire

Longleaf Pines and Fire Ecology

Den Latham

Publication Year: 2013

Fire can be a destructive, deadly element of nature, capable of obliterating forests, destroying homes, and taking lives. Den Latham’s Painting the Landscape with Fire describes this phenomenon but also tells a different story, one that reveals the role of fire ecology in healthy, dynamic forests. Fire is a beneficial element which allows the longleaf forests of America’s Southeast to survive. In recent decades, foresters and landowners have become intensely aware of the need to “put enough fire on the ground” to preserve longleaf habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers, quail, wild turkeys, and a host of other plants and animals. Painting the Landscape with Fire is a hands-on-primer for those who want to understand the role of fire in longleaf forests. Latham joins wildlife biologists, foresters, wildfire fighters, and others as they band and translocate endangered birds, survey snake populations, improve wildlife habitat, and conduct prescribed burns on public and private lands.
Painting the Landscape with Fire explores the unique southern biosphere of longleaf forests. Throughout, Latham beautifully tells the story of the resilience of these woodlands and of the resourcefulness of those who work to see them thrive. Fire is destructive in the case of accidents, arson, or poor policy, but with the right precautions and safety measures, it is the glowing life force that these forests need.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Painting the Landscape with Fire

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p. 2-2

Title

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pp. 3-4

Copyright

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p. 5-5

Dedication

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pp. 6-7

Contents

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pp. vii-8

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-9

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Foreword

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pp. ix-xiv

I cannot contain my excitement; I finished reading a book on longleaf pine that read more like a novel. Seeing a book such as Den Latham’s Painting the Landscape with Fire has been a dream ever since I finished an edited volume, The Longleaf Pine Ecosystem: Ecology, Silviculture and Restoration, back in 2006. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

I am a writer and not a biologist, forester, or natural scientist. I am therefore indebted to all who took me with them into the woods and who patiently answered my questions, even while they were hard at work. As any researcher knows, people who love what they do are generous with their time and knowledge. ...

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Fire Is Good

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pp. 1-5

the carolina sandhills are ancient. The hills are small, often just subtle risings and fallings in the land. It is easy to imagine when you drive down a dirt road or hike through a forest there that the Sandhills are the time-wasted dunes of a Paleozoic sea. ...

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Fire Tour

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pp. 6-18

On a weekday in early April at 7:30 a.m. I received a call from Scott Lanier, manager of the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge (CSNWR). Conditions looked good for a prescribed burn, and he invited me along. ...

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Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

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pp. 19-33

When Columbus dropped anchor, an estimated nine hundred thousand red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) inhabited ninety million acres of longleaf pines. Many ornithologists who wrote the first books on American birds described RCWs as common. About fourteen thousand RCWs and 2 percent of those forests remain. ...

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Snake Cruising I

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pp. 34-47

“You’ll have to excuse the housekeeping,” Kevin Messenger said, swinging open the door from the carport to the house. “I don’t get many visitors.” The house, a one-story brick ranch-style in the middle of the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, was a loaner. ...

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Staging a Burn

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pp. 48-60

On a morning in late April at 7:00 a.m. I received calls from Scott Lanier, manager of the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, and Mike Housh, fire management officer. “We’ll try a prescribed burn if we can round up a few extra bodies.” They invited me along to watch. ...

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After a Burn—Longleaf Pine Strategy

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pp. 61-66

I went in May with forester Clay Ware to the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge to study how longleaf pines survive fire. Earlier that month and well into the growing season, the refuge crew had staged one of the last burns of the year to preserve their portion of this threatened ecosystem. ...

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Groundwork

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pp. 67-74

“To see a world in a grain of sand,” writes Blake, “And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour.”1 Geologists, like poets, have visions, and if they may not grasp infinity, they may still spy a hundred million years of Earth’s history in a handful of sand, see oceans come and go and mountains brought low. ...

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Sandhills Botany

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pp. 75-90

Pines, grass, scrub oaks—before I started this book, when I drove through a Sandhills forest that’s all I saw. It wasn’t until I escaped the office and town and began digging into the role of fire in longleaf forests that I discovered, outside of my door, one of the world’s great ecosystems. ...

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Banding Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

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pp. 91-95

June 2. Another blue sky, cool breeze, and warm sunny day. My hands were spotted with pine tar from helping wildlife biologist Laura Housh load gear and a Swedish climbing ladder from her truck onto a four-wheeler. Laura was banding red-cockaded woodpecker chicks and had invited me along to watch. ...

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Under a Red Flag

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pp. 96-116

In the 1920s the U.S. government, along with the states of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, were hot to stamp out the “estimated 200,000 woods fires [that] burned annually in the South.” Believing fire to be “the greatest deterrent to renewed timber stands and to permanent forest management,” ...

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Quail in a Longleaf Pine Habitat

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pp. 117-131

It was January 29, and South Carolina was in the first cold snap of the winter. At 7:00 a.m. it was six degrees below freezing and windy when I stepped out of the house for a long drive to Scotswood Plantation. There I would meet Judy Barnes, wildlife biologist with South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resource’s Small Game Project, ...

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In Search of the Elusive White Wicky

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pp. 132-135

Lost forests. Endangered species. When I first met Scott Lanier, manager of the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, I asked why we should care if longleaf pines disappeared or red-cockaded woodpeckers went extinct. “Why not let nature take its course?” ...

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Snake Cruising II

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pp. 136-147

It was an oddly cool day for mid-May. The air was heavy and damp, and the sunset glowered a weird orange. I was motoring along Over-Flow Drive, a dirt back road to the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, for a second snake hunt with Kevin Messenger. This time members of the North Carolina State University Herpetology Club were joining us. ...

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Wild Turkeys

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pp. 148-154

In the early twentieth century Bernard Baruch, owner of Hobcaw Barony near Georgetown, South Carolina, wrote that wild turkeys were so numerous they caused traffic jams. By 1990 the turkey population at the barony had fallen, it’s rumored, to a single bird. ...

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Translocation

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pp. 155-165

It was 5:30 p.m. on September 29. I was standing outside a Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge office next to forester Clay Ware and eight others: five from the refuge; two, Neal Humke and Bryan Watts, from the Nature Conservancy; and Sergio Harding, from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. ...

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The Francis Marion

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pp. 166-185

“There is a good chance that we may be burning tomorrow,” e-mailed Bill Twomey, acting fire management officer at the Francis Marion National Forest. “If you can make it, let me know.” When I called to ask the odds, he said the weather forecast looked good and that he was “about 90 percent sure.” ...

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Wildland-Urban Interface

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pp. 186-201

A spring evening, 8:00 p.m., and I was back at home with a killer sinus headache. Gray, blue, and yellow smoke swirled inside my sinuses. I wondered if the men I had been with on the day’s burn had similar ailments. But I wasn’t complaining. It had been a good fire. I was still excited. ...

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The Grandfather Pine

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pp. 202-208

When I first visited Scott Lanier’s office at the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, I was looking for a short topic—maybe coyotes or cottonmouths. When Scott asked me to write a news article to explain the importance of prescribed burns, I knew nothing of longleaf pines, wiregrass, or red-cockaded woodpeckers. ...

Index

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pp. 209-218


E-ISBN-13: 9781611172478
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611172423

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013