PEDRO, Ohio — Fire helps maintain healthy oak forests, according to scientists who study native plants, birds and other wildlife. That’s why the Wayne National Forest uses fire as a tool to restore southern Ohio forests.
“Fire rejuvenates the forest. It increases nutrient availability, favors some plants over others, and can remove some of the leaf litter and smaller trees and brush. This lets more sunlight into the forest floor, which is important for regenerating oak trees, the dominant tree in Ohio forests, and many sun-loving plants,” said Ironton District Ranger Tim Slone.
Prescribed fire is a planned fire that is overseen by professional firefighters. Fall marks the beginning of the forest’s prescribed burn season, during which professionals plan to burn up to 1,710 acres between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31, 2018, on the Ironton Ranger District. Areas include:
Lake Vesuvius Prescribed Burn
Size: Approximately 450 acres
Location: Lawrence County, Elizabeth Township, in the vicinity of Lake Vesuvius.
Bluegrass Prescribed Burn
Size: Approximately 1,260 acres
Location: Lawrence County, Aid Township, in the vicinity of County Road 19.
Prescribed fires are performed under specific weather conditions and are designed to mimic fire that historically occurred on the forest. The Wayne National Forest follows strict guidelines for conducting prescribed burns, and uses environmental factors including temperature, humidity, atmosphere stability, wind-direction and speed as well as smoke dispersion. If any of these conditions are not within limits, the burns will be postponed.
By bringing fire back to the forest, the Wayne National Forest hopes to:
Encourage the growth of a diverse array of plant life, including sun-loving plants and grasses.
Ensure oaks remain the keystone species in our forests. Oaks provide food for about 100 different animals. Using fire to bring light into our forests helps oaks grow. Without fire, shade-tolerant species will take over and eventually replace oak as the dominant species in our forest.
Protect human property by reducing the amount of down, dead wood in the forest. That way if a wildfire happens, it would be less intense, and potentially easier to control.
Perpetuate oak barrens and woodlands found within the forest. These remnant plant communities provide habitat for several early-successional species. Maintaining these open woodland conditions with prescribed fire increases biodiversity in both plant and animal species.
To learn more about prescribed burning on the Wayne, contact the Wayne National Forest Public Affairs Office at (740) 753-0862.
For more information, visit our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/wayne.
SOURCE: U.S. Forest Service press release