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Mike Norris, Fire Specialist and Land Steward


Mike Norris

Prescribed Fire Specialist & Land Steward (Southern Pines)

I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio and went to school at Bowling Green State University where I majored in Environmental Studies. My parents and younger brother still live in the Cincinnati area. I enjoy offshore fishing, hunting, backpacking, craft beers, and learning new crafts like painting and growing veggies and herbs in my container garden. 

Year started at TNC: I started with TNC Florida in the Keys Program in 1998 where I was focused on eradicating invasive exotic plants on public lands. Later that year, I went to work for TNC Indiana in the Southern Lake Michigan Rim Office continuing to battle invasive plants, restoring habitat for oak savanna dependent species, and rearing and releasing the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly. In 2003, I moved to North Carolina where I have been working for the NC Sandhills Program focusing on the restoration and management of longleaf pine savannas. 

Favorite TNC Preserve and why: The Ivanhoe Preserve in northwest Indiana. It’s a small preserve that is covered in lady slipper orchids, lupine, and other oak savanna species. In the 20’s, roads were bulldozed in to make way for subdivisions, but they never came. So you have this unique “dune and swale” ecosystem with road beds covered in rare plants. You can see what the place almost became by looking at the roads. It’s pretty remarkable to look at the density of orchids, the rare insects, and other plants and animals that call the place home - all surrounded by the urban landscape of Gary, Indiana. 

A typical good day for you at work: I start the work truck, Engine 602, make some calls and send some texts while the diesel warms up. I meet our forester and check the restoration logging project we have going on to talk about when we will finish (and when we can plant tens of thousands of longleaf pine seedlings.) It’s neat to walk around on a recently logged site and have an idea of how great the place will be in a hundred years.

I then catch up with the fire crew at our Calloway Forest Preserve to see how work is progressing on fire line preparation so we can burn a few hundred more acres this winter. After fielding some calls with contractors, having lunch, and talking with a private landowner about the current fire weather conditions, I’ll catch up with my supervisor and get him up to speed as to what’s going on at our properties.

I finish out my day at my computer working on burn prescriptions, contracts to plant longleaf pine seedlings, and planning future prescribed fires. At the end of the day I know that what I did may not seem like I accomplished a lot, but in the marathon of the work we do I ran another mile. 

Place in the world you would most like to visit but have never been to: Cancun. I know it’s crowded with tourists. But I would like to see the ruins, the jungles, and enjoy some remote beaches.

Acquisition is only the beginning

Mike Norris was recently featured in our Great Places monthly e-newsletter in a piece about the stages of restoring a longleaf pine forest. Norris explains how the Southeast got so much (non-native) loblolly pine and why controlled burning is good to both restore and maintain an ecosystem. Read article.

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Mike Norris

Prescribed Fire Specialist & Land Steward (Southern Pines)

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