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Interior Secretary Bernhardt tours St. Marks Wildlife Refuge

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT
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WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - Sparks were flying at Saint Marks Wildlife Refuge Thursday to demonstrate wildfire prevention.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt made a stop in Wakulla County Thursday to learn more about prescribed burns. The President's Cabinet Member met with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Congressman Neal Dunn at Saint Marks Wildlife Refuge.

"Saint Marks, first off, is one of the first areas in the country to begin using fires as a routine treatment mechanism," Bernhardt said. "But they actually have an inner agency center here that is the pinnacle of training for the entire nation."

During his visit, the secretary inspected the wildlife refuge while refuge officials held a briefing on controlled burns. That was followed by a burn demonstration, as Secretary Bernhardt sparked a flame to burn away hazardous brush and debris.

He says this practice is a leading treatment in preventing "catastrophic" wildfires.

"Where we have fire prescribed regularly used as an activity, what you see is fewer and fewer catastrophic fires," Bernhardt said. "That also means a tremendous savings in our communities, and even in manpower costs because it costs a lot to fight a big fire compared to treating a small fire."

When asked why we don't see this practice used in more places across the nation, Bernhardt said that this practice is a part of the culture in Florida. He says he does believe that it's becoming more accepted in more communities.

The stop in Wakulla County is one of several stops along the gulf coast and across the Sunshine State. The secretary says it’s part President Trump’s effort to better maintain the nation’s forests.

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