WHY Do Good Forest Managers Burn the Woods?
For many years we have been taught that fire in the forest is bad. What we should have been taught is that uncontrolled fire in the forest is bad. Uncontrolled or wildfire can cause damage in the forest. But fire in the hands of a skilled professional can be a very effective natural resource management tool. Fire used in this manner is known as prescribed fire.
The Benefits of Prescribed Fire are Many:
Wildfire Hazard Reduction
By removing some of the fuel (like leaves, pine needles, and twigs) under controlled conditions, the chances of a damaging wildfire is greatly reduced. If there is little fuel, there can be only a little fire.
Many wildlife species benefit from prescribed fire. Fire can remove thick undergrowth, making travel and feeding much easier for some species such as turkey and deer. Fire also promotes growth of valuable wildlife food plants such as legumes and hardwood sprouts.
The open, park-like stand of pine that many people find attractive can best be maintained with the use of prescribed fire.
Prescribed fire can be used to remove unwanted vegetation and logging debris before new pines are planted. It is also a valuable tool to get rid of unwanted brush in a growing pine stand. Prescribed fire effectively controls a disease called brownspot, common in longleaf pine forests.
Perpetuate Fire Dependent Species
Many plant and animal species are dependent on periodic fire to create an ecosystem suitable for their growth and reproduction. Among these are pitcher plants, several species of wild orchids, and red-cockaded woodpeckers.
What About Smoke?
Prescribed burning does create smoke. But burning under good smoke dispersal conditions will reduce the chances of smoke-related problems. Training in smoke management and prescribed burning is available from the South Carolina Forestry Commission.
Commission foresters are available to assist landowner with prescribed burning. A prescribed burning plan can be prepared for a property free of charge to reduce wildfire and smoke hazards. For a minimal charge, the Commission can construct firebreaks on your property, have equipment standing by during a prescribed burning, or conduct the actual prescribed burning for the landowner.
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