Prescribed fire proposals are set for spring in Bath County
WARM SPRINGS, VA (WVMR) – The Warm Springs and James River Districts are planning eight prescribed burns during the spring of 2014 for a total of approximately 10,895 acres. The exact treatment of each burn is weather dependent, but will likely occur in March, April and early May. All of the prescribed fire proposals are located in Bath County and will be implemented jointly with our partners The Nature Conservancy.
The 1,200 acres Big Wilson South is located on Warm Springs Mountain. The Jackson River burn is 2,251 acres and is located in Hidden Valley. The Little Neal unit is 1,344 acres and is on the east facing slopes of Back Creek Mountain. The 65 acres of annual grass field burns are located in Hidden Valley along with the 57 acre Golden Winged Warbler prescribed fire unit. The Blue Grass burn is 3,407 acres near Little Brushy Mountain. The 2,400 acre Panther Run prescribed fire is near Little Mare Mountain. Both the forest service and The Nature Conservancy will assist Douthat State Park with a 168 acre burn inside the park.
The Appalachian ecosystem has evolved with and is dependent on fire to remain healthy and to provide optimal habitat for a diversity of plants and animals. The oak-hickory forest is by far the most prevalent forest type in this part of the Appalachians and beyond. Fire-adapted species include the oak and hickory forest, grasses and shrubs. Fire adapted means that we would not have these forests today without the occurrence of fire in the past. And we will not have these forests in the future without the influence of fire today. Without natural understory fires, oak seedlings in the understory are outcompeted for available light and food by more shade-loving species, like red maple and white pine. Without fire, over time, an oak-hickory forest will become a different forest, one dominated by maples, white pines, gums and other species which do not produce the wildlife habitat that many species depend on.
A specific burn example is the Golden Winged Warbler burn located in the Hidden Valley of Bath County. This will be the second treatment of this area designed to improve habitat for Golden Winged Warblers that thrive in younger forests in close proximity of mature forests. The Golden Winged Warbler is at risk of being listed as an Endangered Species due to loss of habitat from changes in land use and land use practices.
The Hidden Valley grass fields are another example. We burn these warm season grass fields annually each spring. The heavy grass cover is allowed to last over winter providing valuable cover and shelter to small mammals and birds. We burn the grass fields each spring to renew a strong and vigorous stand of warm season grasses that serve as next winter’s lodging for many animals.