Chapter II: Critical Need
Florida’s Forests Face Many Threats
Severe Weather Often Triggers a Cycle of Instability
In 1998 nearly 10,000 acres — almost half the expanse — of Florida’s Lake George State Forest was damaged in the Firestorm wildfires. June and July winds breathed life into the blaze, dubbed “the wildfire of the century,” bringing devastation to the fragile ecosystem as embers rode the winds into drought-ridden areas ripe for fire.
Hot, dry conditions and an abundance of aggressive foliage, including the dead plant material often referred to as “litter,” resulted in scattered fires that took weeks to extinguish as the flames spread. Fires, which frequently result from lightning during thunderstorms, can present a serious risk depending on current weather conditions.
The decade since these fires has seen limited progress. At Lake George State Forest, hiking and birding are limited to existing roads and fire lanes. Undeveloped recreation areas, complete with nature trails and restrooms, await funding for completion, often leaving would-be visitors impatient.
But people aren’t the only living creatures anxious for improvement. Endangered or threatened plant and animal species tread closer to extinction with every wasted day. Only through organized efforts can their future be assured.