Our pappies burned the woods: a fire history of the south
Document Type: Book Chapter
Author(s): S. J. Pyne
Editor(s): S. J. Pyne
Publication Year: 1982

Cataloging Information

  • agriculture
  • Alabama
  • annual burning
  • Appalachian Mountains
  • Aristida
  • Arkansas
  • backfires
  • birds
  • broadcast burning
  • brush
  • burning intervals
  • CCC - Civilian Conservation Corporation
  • Chamaecrista
  • Chapman, H.H.
  • coastal plain
  • Colinus virginianus
  • conservation
  • copper
  • cutting
  • decay
  • DESCON (Designated Control Burn Systems)
  • droughts
  • education
  • fire management
  • fire protection
  • fire regimes
  • fire size
  • fire suppression
  • firefighting personnel
  • Florida
  • forest management
  • fuel accumulation
  • fuel loading
  • game birds
  • Georgia
  • Gossypium
  • grasses
  • habitat suitability
  • health factors
  • herbaceous vegetation
  • histories
  • human caused fires
  • hunting
  • ignition
  • insects
  • Kentucky
  • Komarek, E.V., Sr.
  • land management
  • land use
  • livestock
  • logging
  • Louisiana
  • mammals
  • Meleagris gallopavo
  • Michigan
  • military lands
  • Mississippi
  • mosaic
  • mountains
  • national forests
  • National Guard
  • Native Americans
  • natural resource legislation
  • needles
  • North Carolina
  • Okefenokee Swamp
  • Osceola National Forest
  • Piedmont
  • pine forests
  • pine hardwood forests
  • pitch
  • plantations
  • pocosins
  • prairies
  • precipitation
  • private lands
  • public information
  • range management
  • recreation
  • Red Hills
  • reproduction
  • reptiles
  • Saccharum
  • savannas
  • Serenoa repens
  • silviculture
  • site treatments
  • slash
  • soils
  • South Carolina
  • Stoddard, H.L.
  • suppression
  • swamps
  • Tall Timbers Research Station
  • tar
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • trees
  • turpentine
  • TVA - Tennessee Valley Authority
  • understory vegetation
  • US Forest Service
  • Weeks Act
  • West Virginia
  • wildfires
  • wildlife
  • wildlife management
  • wildlife refuges
  • windthrows
  • wood
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 15, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 43147
Tall Timbers Record Number: 18326
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Not in File
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


From the text... 'But with the advent of fire protection in the South, game birds decreased much as pasturage had and as grouse populations had in Britain. The vegetative ensemble that sustained maximum populations gave way to roughage and woods. By 1923 hunting plantations in southern Georgia and northern Florida were in decline. Desperate owners agreed to pool resources for scientific research into the question. The acreage concerned was not large, but the issue, as it turned out, had national significance. Out of this concern came the Cooperative Quail Study Investigation. Direction of the project was given to the U.S. Biological Survey, which handed it over to Herbert Stoddard in 1924. Stoddard completed his field work four years later, and in 1931 he published a classic in wildlife management: The Bobwhite Quail, Its Habitats, Preservation, and Increase. His report to the Biological Survey was reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service, and his comments on fire proved so challenging that Forest Service pressure required the chapter to pass through five editorial drafts, each successively watering down the conclusion. Stoddard determined that quail populations in the South depended on land management practices and that in this complex process 'fire may well be the most important single factor in determining what animal or vegetable life will thrive in many areas.' Stoddard*s quail study thus concluded at the same time as S. W. Greene*s investigations on fire and pasturage and his Bobwhite Quail saw publication in the same year as Greene*s The Forest That Fire Made. Thus, southern fire practices were vindicated for hunting and herding at nearly the same time. What made this work especially significant was that it gave scientific credibility to the subject of wildlife management through fire. Stoddard removed the topic from the realm of 'cracker' folklore, much as Chapman had done for timber management and Greene for livestock management. Woodsburning had to cease because of socioeconomic changes, manifested by enclosure, not because it was environmentally degrading to the habitat for game, timber, or stock. Prescribed burning for wildlife management in refuges became respectable, just as it did for silviculture and range management. Where the natural products of the ecosystem were being harvested, fire once again demonstrated its utility, even its necessity. Wildlife managers have generally remained among the most active advocates of prescribed fire, and wildlife refuges in the South were among the first federal reservations to implement prescribed burning. Moreover, it was through the Cooperative Quail Study that Stoddard, and later the Komareks, organized the Cooperative Quail Association, which served as a consultant for hunting plantation managers throughout the South. In turn, it was succeeded by the Tall Timbers Research Station, which served in the 1960s as a critical forum for research into the ecology, techniques, and philosophy of prescribed fire. ... Its peculiar fire heritage helped the south to train the rest of the nation in the art of prescribed burning. From the Florida-based Tall Timbers Research Station, beginning in 1962, came an influential series of annual fire ecology conferences, and four years later the Southern Fire Lab of the Forest Service sponsored a program of prescribed-burning seminars. The nation's leading fire region also became a leader in fire protection -- mechanized, sophisticated, and no longer locked into parochial issues. North Carolina, a state in which a 3 million acre fire in the nineteenth century could go virtually unreported, offered a splendid example. In 1970 the state responded to pleas for help from the Forest Service, then overwhelmed by fires on the West Coast. In 1976 the Interior Department made the request, and North Carolina shipped some of its special high flotation plows to the Seney fire in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It marked only the second occasion that heavy equipment was airlifted between states for fire suppression. A year later, North Carolina sent nearly 100 men to California for fire duty, and at national level training courses sponsored by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, the fire overhead team from North Carolina swept all honors in the field of 'fire generalship.'' © 1982 by Princeton University Press.

Pyne, S. J. 1982. Our pappies burned the woods: a fire history of the south, in SJ Pyne ed., Fire in America: a cultural history of wildland and rural fire. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, p. 143-160.