Wildfire had significant impact on Bastrop State Park: How the public can help

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AUSTIN – Beyond the loss of lives and property, the still-smoldering Bastrop Complex Fire has had a significant impact not only on the iconic and highly-popular Bastrop State Park but much of the entire Lost Pines ecosystem. The fire, which began north of the park on Sept. 4, claimed two lives, destroyed more than 1,500 homes, and changed the lives of thousands in Bastrop County.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife has been experiencing an outpouring of concern from citizens, conservationists and nature enthusiasts worried about the ecological impact on the park and the ecosystem it anchors,” said Todd McClanahan, park superintendent. “People have been offering money, trees, and wildflowers – even wildlife. We’d like to ask the public to be patient while we assess the impact of this disaster and determine what TPWD needs to do, but we have set up a system for the public to offer assistance.”

While few areas within the park escaped the fire, most of the Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed buildings and other park infrastructure were saved. Even so, TPWD officials know that the fire has had a profound impact on the Lost Pines vegetation and wildlife habitats, though neither was totally lost.

“There will be remarkable changes in the landscape,” Greg Creacy, Natural Resources and Regional Wildland Fire Coordinator for State Parks said. “TPWD staff and cooperating scientists are focusing on assessing and documenting these effects.”

On the short term, however, TPWD personnel are still mopping up after the fire – dealing with smoldering stumps and yet-unburned fuel. Flare-ups are still a threat, especially with the continuing drought and red flag fire conditions.  Additionally, there are many hazardous trees to deal with—hundreds of which will continue to smolder and fall over the coming months.

The Lost Pines are among the more unique ecosystems in the nation and Bastrop and Buescher State Parks contain one of the best examples of the southwest-most extent of the loblolly pine.

“The genetics of these pines are unique,” said David Riskind, Director of Natural Resources for State Parks. “To provide for the long-term recovery and restoration of this plant community we need to use only the genetic stock from this area. Unfortunately no seedlings of this type are available at this moment so we do not want to introduce plants foreign to Bastrop.  The same goes for grasses and wild flowers.”

Creacy said TPWD will be assessing fire effects to determine the most seriously impacted sites and what the best strategies are to bring about maximum stabilization and recovery. This will involve mapping areas where erosion potential is greatest and working to install environmental fabrics.

“Another focus will be protecting especially sensitive habitats like the Houston Toad breeding ponds,” he said.  “All our study sites and transects will be monitored to determine effects on insects, wildlife, and vegetation.”

The Lost Pines are considered the last stronghold of the endangered amphibian, which once could be found in 14 Texas counties.

Here’s how the public can help:

  • If you are interested in the ecological restoration of Bastrop State Park and want to donate to habitat restoration or research please send your donations to:
    Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
    Attn: Cashiers
    4200 Smith School Rd.
    Austin, TX 78744
    On the memo line note: Bastrop Recover Project-Habitat Restoration