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Significant SWFL Drought Hurts Ranchers, Threatens Wildfires

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Photo: Big Cypress National Preserve via Flickr
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

This year the dry season has been abnormally dry, which has earned Southwest Florida the classification of being in a “severe” drought by the National Weather Service. Fire officials say that drought is now prime fuel for wildfires.

After excessive rain and overgrowth of vegetation in the past few years, fire officials say all that growth is now dried out. Since January, nearly 1,300 wildfires have been reported in Florida, burning more than 56,000 acres. Currently the Cowbell fire in Big Cypress National Preserve is 449 acres in size and just 10 perecent contained.

Thursday at 1 p.m., Samantha Quinn, a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist with the Florida Forest Service, explains how the people trying to control these fires approach drought-stricken areas in South Florida.

Drought also means tough times for livestock and the ranchers who keep them. Rancher and Hendry County’s Agricultural Extension Office Agent Gene McAvoy joins the program to discuss about how the drought is putting a pinch on cattle herds and how it’s actually helping vegetables.

And  meteorologist Jeff Huffman with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network joins the show to talk about what the forecast holds for our parched area.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
Julie Glenn is the host of Gulf Coast Live. She has been working in southwest Florida as a freelance writer since 2007, most recently as a regular columnist for the Naples Daily News. She began her broadcasting career in 1993 as a reporter/anchor/producer for a local CBS affiliate in Quincy, Illinois. After also working for the NBC affiliate, she decided to move to Parma, Italy where she earned her Master’s degree in communication from the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Her undergraduate degree in Mass Communication is from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.