MORGANTON, N.C. (April 2, 2014) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, and the U. S. Forest Service will conduct prescribed burns over the next two days on 3,300 acres in Burke, Haywood, McDowell and Rutherford counties. They will be assisted by personnel from a N.C. Forest Service youth program.
The prescribed burns will affect approximately 400 acres on South Mountains State Park, 200 acres on Cold Mountain Game Land, 2,000 acres on Pisgah Game Land, and 700 acres on South Mountains Game Land. These burns will aid in ecosystem restoration of the land, wildlife habitat improvement, and reduction of brush and debris that can cause dangerous wildfires.
“Prescribed fire is an essential tool in wildlife management, especially in fire-adapted and fire-dependent forest communities,” said Dean Simon, a wildlife biologist and forester with the Wildlife Commission. “Many wildlife species and habitats need it not only to survive, but thrive.”
Prescribed burns provide habitat for early successional wildlife that live in the region, such as quail, rabbits, grouse and songbirds. Many other species also benefit, including turkey and deer, as well as many rare plant species.
“We want to make sure people know that these burning projects are designed to achieve wildlife habitat goals, forest restoration, and fuels reduction in these Mountains landscapes,” Simon said.
Fire once occurred naturally across North Carolina. Low-intensity fires burned every few years, fueled by grass, leaves, pine straw and other forest debris. They kept the forest open, allowing sunlight to penetrate to its floor and reducing buildup of dangerous fuel loads. Fire suppression altered the landscape, allowing fuels to accumulate and putting people and communities in jeopardy.
Staff with the Wildlife Commission, State Parks, and the U. S. Forest Service prepare for each fire by creating a burn plan that includes smoke-management strategies, fire-control measures, acceptable weather parameters, and equipment and personnel needs. The plan also details how the ecosystem will benefit from fire. During and after the burn, staff using equipment, including emergency water tanks, will be on hand to monitor the landscape.
The youth program assisting the agency is the N.C. Forest Service’s BRIDGE Program, a cooperative effort between the N.C. Forest Service and the N.C. Division of Prisons to increase the state’s firefighting capabilities, while providing youth offenders valuable job training and life skills resulting in productive, taxpaying citizens upon release and a significant recidivism rate reduction. The participants routinely assist with prescribed fire, in addition to firefighting duties.