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Fire Management Programme at Golden Gate

27 July 2006

Golden Gate Highlands National Park has been busy implementing its 2006 Fire Management Programme over the past few weeks. This involves securing fire breaks early in the burning season to prevent accidental fires that are initiated outside the park from causing damage within the park. Fire breaks are also made around infrastructure of the park to protect against the loss of assets and human lives should a fire break out.

According to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park Fire Management Programme, the area of the park north of the provincial road (R712) should be burnt every two years.A large section of this area was burnt on Wednesday 26 July 2006. It was a planned burn and was managed and controlled according to the Fire Management Programme. No animals were in danger of being affected by the fire, no human lives or infrastructure was under threat and it was executed under the necessary supervision and completed successfully.

The objective of the Fire Management Programme in Golden Gate Highlands National Park is to manage prescribed fires and wild fires so as to protect and promote the conservation of biodiversity and natural values, whilst also providing for a sufficient level of protection to human life, community assets and fire sensitive ecosystems. It also aims to create or maintain an optimum relationship between herbaceous and woody vegetation where necessary and to encourage wildlife to move to less preferred areas in order to minimize the overuse of preferred areas.Another reason for burning this year is that the high rainfall causes an increase in the moribund vegetation which leads to bush encroachment. This has to be monitored, especially in the wetland areas in order to allow new growth and to create a sustainable grazing habitat for game.

A variety of fire regimes incorporating different frequency, intensity, season and type of fire are applied. Block burning, where the park is divided into units in different altitudinal zones characterised by different vegetation , is practiced. The total area burnt is determined as a function of the estimated standing grass fuel load at the end of the growing season (April). Based on the vegetation map, the park is divided into seven management units in which the fire regimes are practiced. The park is further divided into 16 burning compartments whereby the burning scheduled is implemented using alternative compartments of land. Damage to the forest is kept to a minimum and healthy grassland is allowed to develop. Prescribed fire regimes are practiced to maintain diversity in the ecosystem that is both beneficial to plant and animal communities.