Guests who visit Little St. Simons Island in the near future will notice a very obvious change in some of the Wax Myrtle and Sweetgrass habitat found near the eastern side of the island – large areas have been recently burned. The burns were prescribed, or intentional, and are part of the ongoing Fire Management Plan for LSSI. The Fire Management Plan is part of a group of recommendations made by the LSSI Ecological Advisory Committee.
The Fire Management Plan outlines short and long-term goals for the island, with an emphasis on the protection and enhancement of health of rare species, natural communities, maintaining or increasing biodiversity, to maintain ecological processes, and to enhance and promote archaeological and historical venues and processes.
The first priority in the prescribed burn process was to focus on the Myrica/Muhlenbergia (Wax Myrtle and Sweetgrass) community. On February 21 and 23, ecological manager Scott Coleman, the naturalists, and an experienced team of Georgia DNR fire crew members burned 260 total acres of this particular habitat. The goal was to knock back Wax Myrtles in order to open up more land for Sweetgrass. The Sweetgrass community on LSSI is one of the most extensive examples left in Georgia. Two Species of Concern live in this community, and will benefit from active management. Island Glass Lizard and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake will both benefit from the fires.
In the past island history, both prescribed fires and wildfire have occurred on a regular basis. The Fire Management Plan outlines steps to address wildfire, and to enhance additional habitats such as the Slash Pine forest in the future. Areas that were part of the recent burn will be burned again in the near future to further enhance those habitats.