WILDLAND-URBAN INTERFACE

The term "wildland-urban interface" often conjures up images of a sharply defined line delineating the boundary between developed and undeveloped lands. It is also commonly thought of as those areas where development occurs within forests, a place where built structures intermix with natural areas. The wildland-urban interface, however, must be thought of in much broader terms. The interface involves an area of mixed ownerships and multiple jurisdictions, resulting in an array of political, social and economic challenges. All of these components of the wildland-urban interface must be taken into account when defining the interface.

One critical component is the role of fire in the "wildland-urban interface". Fire is both a tool to enhance and a risk to public safety and property. Florida is home to many "fire-dependent" natural ecosystems and, therefore, an important component to learn about. You can begin your education on this topic at the UF/IFAS "Fire in Florida" web site. You can keep informed and alert about current fire conditions at the Florida Department of Forestry's Fire Weather and Forecasts page.

Particularly concerning wildfire risk, the Natural Resources Extension Program supports the efforts of Sarasota County's Emergency Services and the FL Department of Forestry for homeowner individuals and associations to ensure public safety and quality of life in the "wildland-urban interface". For example, information and presentations are available about the National Firewise Communities Program. This approach emphasizes community responsibility for planning in the design of a safe community as well as effective emergency response, and individual responsibility for safer home construction and design, land use planning, water resources, resource management, wildlife, economics and others. You can view a short video (four minutes) on Florida Firewise Communities at the FL Wildland Fire web site.

At the same time, due to the complexity of the wildland-urban interface, there are other critical issues that need to be discussed. Some of these issues include ecosystem services and benefits, forest health, land use planning, wildlife conservation, water resources, economics and other. One such issue is "prescribed burning" which is an essential tool for the restoration and maintenance of natural ecosystems, such as Sarasota County's Environmentally Sensitive Lands preserves, and on private natural lands, as well as reduce the risk of wildfires. The Natural Resource Extension Program provides presentations to explain and support such efforts by Sarasota County's Resource Management and private landowners. Information about all of these topics can be found at the USDA's Interface South site, as well as by contacting Robert Kluson at rkluson@scgov.net.