fire in scrubPhoto by: Reed Bowman


January 31, 2024

Archbold Biological Station was awarded $704,000 as part of The Department of Defense (DOD) Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 REPI Challenge. Funds will support fire management for enhanced resilience in the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape, including an ecosystem restoration team to build regional capacity for fire management within the Sentinel Landscape.

In addition to the DOD REPI grant, Archbold received $312,000 in grant funding through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s America the Beautiful Challenge to support this regional fire management effort.

The increase in controlled burning has important conservation implications, improving the condition of several fire-dependent ecosystems on which many at-risk species including Endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrows, and Threatened Eastern Indigo Snakes depend.

Additionally, the constant threat of wildfires at APAFR causes regular disruption of operations, especially during the increasingly frequent dry weather periods when unplanned fires in neighboring lands can disrupt training. These fires can interfere with training, and military activities are most likely to initiate hard-to-control wildfires on the base during these conditions. The use of prescribed fire greatly reduces the risk of wildfires threatening operations and infrastructure on the base.

“Fire is an essential piece of the puzzle for the natural systems and species here in the Headwaters. As we work to support conservation around the Sentinel Landscape and in the Headwaters, we acknowledge that properly managing these lands is vital to the health of this ecosystem that so many species, including humans, depend on,” Archbold’s Director of Conservation Josh Daskin said. “This funding will improve land management outcomes on thousands of acres of public and private land in this region.”

FGSP APAFR CSML Photo by: Elizabeth Abraham

The Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape, located within one of the last remaining grassland and longleaf pine savanna landscapes in Eastern North America, has an active base area of over 108,000 acres. Archbold scientists have worked closely with the Range for decades to study and protect the important species that live there.

Since 1977, Archbold has implemented a prescribed fire program on its Venus field station to restore near-natural fire regimes and provide a template for studying the ecology of natural and altered fire regimes. Archbold’s datasets are among the world's most complete for studying the ecology of fire, and Archbold scientists have led the way in understanding demographic and habitat implications of fire management for rare species and ecosystems.

Archbold serves as a research, conservation, and education facility in the Headwaters of the Everglades with a mission to build and share the scientific knowledge needed to protect the life, lands, and waters of Florida and beyond.

“For decades, Archbold has been working to understand and protect lands and waters throughout the Headwaters of the Everglades. Engaging with partners from U.S. DOD and The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has enabled us to inspire positive land management and conservation outcomes at a large, regional scale, which is so desperately needed right now in Florida,” Archbold’s Executive Director Hilary Swain said.

The DOD’s REPI Program facilitates long-term, collaborative partnerships that improve resilience to climate change, preserve essential habitats and natural resources, and promote sustainable land uses near installations and ranges. For the 13th consecutive year, the REPI Program hosted the annual REPI Challenge, a competition with dedicated funding to advance REPI project outcomes through large-scale innovation and conservation.

For the FY 2024 REPI Challenge, the REPI Program contributed over $23 million in funds, coupled with over $36 million in partner contributions to advance innovative projects that promote compatible land uses, enhance military installation resilience, and relieve current or anticipated environmental restrictions on military testing, training, or operations. By distributing funds across 17 projects, the REPI Challenge contributed to initiatives benefiting 22 installations and their communities across the country.

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Read more about the DOD 2024 REPI Challenge Recipients