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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Let's Go Outside! Featured Refuge Events for the Week of December 5th

It's the holiday season on our refuges! Here are some of the events happening at refuges across the country this week, many in the spirit of the season.  Check out this link for more events happening in December on our refuges.

As always, make sure you head over to the Refuge System's homepage and use their searchable map to find events at a Wildlife Refuge near you!

Let's go outside!

Sleigh Passing Elk HerdSleigh passing elk herd Photo: Lori Iverson/USFWS

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Up in Flames: Wildfire on a Refuge

By June 2011, more acres had burned from wildfires across the country than in all of 2010. The following is a look at one of those wildfires, still raging in Georgia at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. In the Southeast Region, 258 fires have started this year on nearly three dozen national wildlife refuges. A total of about 432,000 acres have burned, the vast majority in the Okefenokee.

It started with a bolt of lightning that hit the swamp at 9 a.m. on April 30. More than three months later, fire is still on the move in the water-starved Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. About three-quarters of the refuge have burned, totaling more than 300,000 acres.

An active fire.An active fire.  Image Credit: Howard McCullough

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Georgia: Restoring a ‘Wonder Tree’ in a Changing Climate

Longleaf pine on fire

Longleaf pine forests need fire. Fires remove competing woody vegetation and release nutrients, allowing the rich diversity of plant and animal species found in longleaf ecosystems to thrive.  As temperatures rise in a changing climate, wildfires are expected to increase, making the longleaf pine a good bet for the future. Photo: John Maxwell for USFWS. Download.

Photo iconPhotos: Accompanying photoset on Flickr

Mutlimedia iconPodcast: Accompanying podcast on our Endangered Species site

Federal biologist Laurie Fenwood has a special name for her favorite tree, the longleaf pine. She calls it the wonder tree.

“Because it’s good for everything,” said Fenwood, who is leading America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Whatever the question, in the Southeast the answer is longleaf pine.”

Which southern pine tree species is most resistant to beetle infestation? Longleaf.

Which southern pine thrives during wet or dry periods? Longleaf.

Withstands hurricane-force winds? Tolerates fire? Is best for wildlife? Longleaf, longleaf and longleaf.

All of which has led Fenwood and others to a final question and answer: Which southern pine is likely the best suited to a changing climate? Longleaf, of course.

Before the European migration to North America, the longleaf pine forest stretched across more than 90 million acres from southern Virginia to Florida, and as far west as Texas. The tree dominated more than half of Georgia, filling the coastal plain from what is now Fort Benning in West Georgia to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in the southeast part of the state.

Longleaf reigned because it can grow in a broad range of habitats, from dry mountain slopes to sandy, swampy soils. It evolved with the southern pine beetle and frequent fire. Its large taproot provides a firm anchor, helping the tree withstand strong winds. In many aspects, longleaf wins over loblolly and slash pines, although many tree farmers prefer those yellow pines for their faster early growth and easier regeneration.

Today only pockets of the vast longleaf pine forest are left, totaling less than 4 percent of its historic range due to land clearing for development and agriculture, fire suppression, and the conversion of tree farms to short-rotation pines.

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