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AFD working to reduce wildfire risk and protect endangered songbird

Monday, February 24, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

The Austin metro area is one of the regions in the country most vulnerable to wildfire. Although there are many areas at risk, the environmentally sensitive Balcones Canyonlands Preserve is right smack in the middle of wildfire territory. Historically, the cedar-oak woodlands that dominate the preserve have not been susceptible to frequent fires and under most conditions do not burn readily. Nevertheless, the Austin Fire Department is concerned about the potential of a wildfire destroying sensitive habitat. To help reduce the risk of fire and protect the homes in the area as well the endangered golden-cheeked warblers who nest here, the department’s Wildfire Division is partnering with Travis Country and Travis Audubon to carve out a shaded fuel break along the preserve land. Already, the managing partners of the preserve have completed 12.6 miles of shaded fuel break, and this spring, another 0.45 miles will be added behind the Westminster Glen neighborhood. In these fuel breaks, which extend 60 feet into the preserve from property boundaries, the trees have been pruned and thinned to lessen the chance of a wildfire reaching the tree canopy. The project began Feb. 6 and is scheduled to finish this fall.

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