Shawnee National Forest begins prescribed burns

Published: Oct. 11, 2012 at 5:03 PM CDT
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HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) - The Shawnee National Forest will begin its prescribed burn season.

There are 32 planned prescribed burns on about 5,000 to 10,000 acres over the next year beginning October 1.

The burn are tentatively scheduled to begin in October and continue through April 2013.

The prescribed fires are performed under appropriate weather conditions and during the spring and early fall where the fire can be managed to benefit the land.

According to the Shawnee National Forest, prescribed fire is used to meet several management goals and will approximate historic fire occurrence. It will:

• Maintain oaks and hickories as an integral part of the forest cover. Fire creates openings that oaks and hickories seedlings need to gain access to light in order to grow. Without fire, shade tolerant beaches and maples will take over and eventually replace the oak/hickory stands. Through the forest planning effort it was decided to maintain the historic oak/hickory forest.

• Maintain openlands. Using prescribed fire to maintain openlands allows forest managers to perpetuate prairie and savannah remnants found on the forest. These remnant plant communities provide habitat for several early-successional song bird species, such as Henslow's sparrow and the loggerhead shrike. Maintaining these openings with prescribed fire increases biodiversity in both plant and animal species.

• Reduce wildfire hazard and damage. The use of prescribed fire reduces debris collected on the forest floor so that should a wildfire happen, it will be less intense, thereby causing less damage.

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