Vermont Press Releases

Forest Service to use prescribed fire to improve wildlife habitat

News Release — U.S. Forest Service
Oct. 16, 2014

Media Contact:
Ethan M. Ready, Public Affairs Officer
Green Mountain National Forest
Voice: (802) 747‐6760
Cell: (802) 558‐8176
[email protected]

RUTLAND, VT. (October 16, 2014) – Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) officials announced today that they, in partnership with local fire departments, are planning to use prescribed fire to treat approximately 75 to 100 acres of the more than 400,000-acre national forest. The Forest Service says that it will use prescribed fire as a management tool to reduce heavy accumulations of brush to restore critical wildlife habitat, regenerate early successional growth, and improve overall watershed conditions on the national forest in Vermont.

In the coming weeks, GMNF fire personnel will use prescribed fire in certain areas on the Forest. The prescribed fires are not likely to impact local residents, although smoke will be visible from the surrounding area. Nearby residents may smell smoke. The timing of the prescribed burns depends on weather and vegetation conditions that meet very specifically defined limits – called the “prescription” — so the ignition dates are subject to some adjustment, though the “burn window” is not likely to exceed more than two weeks. The Forest Service will announce additional details on burn locations closer to the date of planned ignition. If a burn cannot be completed during the designated burn window, or soon after, it will likely be postponed until the spring of 2015.

Prior to each prescribed fire, crews will have already prepared the burn area by constructing control lines on the ground. On the first day of ignition, crews will further secure the burn perimeter by “blacklining,” (a method of applying fire to a swath of vegetation immediately inside the control lines) to create a wide barrier that contains the fire within the designated area. On the second day, firefighters will use drip torches to light vegetation in the interior of the burn area.

Prescribed fire restores declining wildlife habitat and improves watershed conditions. The areas planned for burning are now overgrown with thick brush and have been identified by the Forest Service as being critical wildlife habitat. Plants in the area used as forage by wildlife have become coarse, dense, and overcrowded. The post-fire landscape will support a more diverse variety of grasses and forbs, which will be more palatable and nutritious for wildlife species. Each burn site will be closed to the public, and access will be limited for the duration of prescribed fire activities. If it is necessary to temporarily close Forest roads and trails, the Forest Service will notify the public of these closures by posting signs. Such closures will be subject to modification based on the actual date of ignition during the burn window. Firefighter and public safety will be the highest priority for each prescribed fire.

The Forest Service continues to reduce risks associated with uncharacteristic wildfires through treatments such as mechanical thinning and prescribed fire. In 2013, the Forest Service completed treatments on approximately 2.4 million acres of National Forest System lands, exceeding its target by more than 70%. Treatments such as thinning and prescribed fires have been proven to be effective in changing fire behavior and helping control efforts on hundreds of wildfires nationwide. Thinning, prescribed fires, and managing wildfires to achieve natural resource management objectives can help to prevent uncharacteristic wildfires with minimal impacts to air quality while smoke from uncharacteristic wildfires may pose significant risks to public health and safety.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with a mission of sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on the country’s national forests contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes twenty states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region.

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