Firefighters And Scientists To Repair Storm Damaged Refuges

A team of firefighters and biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are being sent to Southern Florida to help repair damaged wildlife refuges and habitats.

The crew was supposed to leave Tuesday morning equipped with tractors, chainsaws and supplies but those plans were halted for at least one to two days because of traffic congestion on highways leading into the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Frances.

Firefighter Tony Wilder says several of the refuges in the area received heavy damage.

"Damage is extensive at one or two refuges near Hope Sound, minimal at other places," says Wilder.

Most of the repair work the team will be doing will involve removal of damaged and fallen trees that could harm refuge workers or wildlife.

"We're taking a lot of chainsaws, excavators, front end loaders and that sort of thing with us," Don Corban, a former Fish and Wildlife Services employee who volunteered to help.

"We'll open up roads. We'll get trees off of buildings take care of damanged trees, opening up drainages so the water can get out."

Flood waters posed the biggest threat to some species who nest on the ground or in Coastal areas where waters rose significantly.

"Things like pelicans and turins, all those shore birds can have whole nesting years wiped out by severe flooding," says biologist Scott Hereford.

Flood waters aren't Hereford's only concern. He says damage to trees can disrupt the way of life for many species of birds living in the storm struck areas.

"A lot of trees coming down. First of all, we've got bald eagles nested in them, endangered woodpeckers. So a lot of the wildlife that would nest or roost or use trees, they're gonna be heavily effected," says Hereford.

Crew members say once they arrive in Florida, they will do whatever is necessary to help the habitats and the animals living within them return to normal.