The U.S. Forest Service fire specialists burned 302 acres in Craig County between Bald Mountain and Little Mountain near Oriskany Monday as wildlife habitat improvement work on the national forest.
The prescribed burn is in the Eastern Divide District of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
The forests provide habitat for thousands of species across Virginia and West Virginia, including nearly 300 threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare wildlife and plants, according to an announcement about the prescribed burn from the Forest Service.
This burn and another that covers 322 acres in Giles County will help preserve these and other species, the Forest Service said in its announcement.
Smoke from the Craig County prescribed burn was expected to be visible primarily along Rt. 615 (Craig Creek Road) and 617 (Barbours Creek). The project boundary included Mill Creek Road.
The Giles County burn was between the No Business drainage and Wolf Creek Mountain. The project boundary includes Wolf Creek Mountain Road.
Experienced fire specialists monitor local weather conditions, such as wind and humidity, to ensure the safety of both crew members and local residents. Prior to lighting the burn, crews constructed and designated firebreaks to ensure the fire did not leave the burn area. The prescribed burns are designed to mimic historic natural fire as much as possible, te Forest Service announcement said. Some individual trees will burn, but the fire should travel mostly across the forest floor.
“We are rapidly losing young forests, open areas and critical wildlife habitat due to 100 years of fire suppression and an aging forest,” the announcement from District Ranger Dan McKeague said. “For thousands of years, fire shaped our forests and wildlife and our lands actually need fire to be healthy. Research shows that fire naturally occurred every 3-15 years in our area.”
Low intensity prescribed burns create open areas where a diverse mix of grasses, plants, and wildflowers grow and provide valuable food and cover for wildlife, the announcement said. These planned burns help to make the land healthier for people, water, and wildlife, such as bear, deer, turkey and many migratory birds and many endangered species.
This burn will increase food sources including blueberry, huckleberry, acorns and hickory nuts. Prescribed burns also have the important benefit of keeping homes safe by reducing fuels to prevent large wildfires, the announcement continued.
For more information on the Forest Service prescribed burn program, contact the Eastern Divide Ranger District at (540) 552-4641.