Mississippi NRRA Fire Management Plan/EA
Environmental Assessment for a Fire Management Plan at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
Park staff at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (Mississippi NRRA) have developed an environmental assessment (EA) for a Fire Management Plan (FMP) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and federal wildland fire policy. This EA for the FMP aims to identify and respond to the environmental impacts of implementing an FMP.
The Mississippi NRRA congressionally authorized park boundary encompasses 54,000 acres. The National Park Service (NPS) has management authority over 39 acres at the Coldwater Spring Unit as well as nine islands in the river corridor, all totaling approximately 65 acres. The Coldwater Spring Unit is located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers and within Fort Snelling unincorporated area of Hennepin County.
The Coldwater Spring Unit encompasses approximately 83 acres. The NPS owns approximately 40 acres and has or will have memoranda with the U.S. Veterans Affairs (22 acres) and the Minnesota Historical Society (21 acres) to manage these properties as part of the Coldwater Spring Unit. The Coldwater Spring Unit is characterized by prairie, oak savanna, mesic hardwood forest and floodplain forest. The NPS has re-established prairie and oak savanna communities by removing invasive species and planting native species on approximately 19 acres since 2011. These re-established plant communities are ecologically fire dependent and benefit from the use of prescribed fire.
Management in the areas surrounding the Coldwater Spring Unit ranges from the maintenance of park-like conditions to areas with no active management. Other areas within the Mississippi NRRA corridor that are not being actively managed are contributing to the spread of invasive plant and animal species, further necessitating active mechanical and fire-based management activities.
The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect NPS resources and to provide for the prevention and management of wildland, unplanned fires. High fuel loads increase the rate of spread, intensity, and flame length of wildland fires, thereby making them more difficult to suppress and leading to greater threats to lives, resources, and property. It is therefore beneficial to use prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads.
An FMP for the Mississippi NRRA would establish long-term goals and standards regarding human safety, ecosystem management, and management partnerships relating to the use of prescribed fire on the Coldwater Spring Unit and the suppression of wildland, unplanned fire throughout the Mississippi NRRA. Due to the proximity of NPS holdings to land maintained by other agencies, interagency cooperation is also essential to achieve safety and fire management goals. A fire management plan is needed to provide a detailed reference and doctrine for the implementation of fire management policy and objectives.