First controlled burns slated for Minnewaska State Park

Fire crew members participate in a controlled burn in forested areas of Mohonk Preserve. (Photo courtesy of Cara Lee, The Nature Conservancy)

The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP) has announced its plans for conducting controlled burns on the Shawangunk Ridge for the 2012 season which extends from mid-March to mid-December. Burns are planned to take place at several Mohonk Preserve locations, Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve. This is the first season that controlled burns will be conducted at Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

Controlled burns clear out brushy, fire-prone undergrowth in the forest, and create conditions which favor regeneration of oak trees, a key species that provides abundant food and shelter for native wildlife. The practice of controlled fire also reduces the risk of more damaging wildfires by reducing the amount of fuel present in the forest. SRBP team members monitor the benefits of controlled burns to the forest of the Shawangunks to document how the practice improves forest health and improves the resilience of the forest to changing climate conditions.

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“Mohonk Preserve has been part of SRBP’s fire management team since its inception in 2005,” explained Glenn Hoagland, Executive Director of the Preserve. “The 2012 burn season is part of a set of connected conservation science, and historical and evolving land management efforts at the Preserve to better understand and help our precious and ecologically vital forests.”

To date, 20 burns totaling about 265 acres have been conducted in the Shawangunks. The first burn of 2012 was conducted at Mohonk Preserve on March 21.

“The controlled burns will be the first ever conducted at Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and one of only two other areas in the history of New York State Parks,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Our experience with the Overlook Fire in April 2008 underscored the need to address the build-up of forest fuels which can be achieved through a program of controlled burns. Controlled burning is a practice which also improves the ecological health of the Shawangunk forest by restoring wildlife habitat, and supporting the growth and health of native plants and trees,” added Commissioner Harvey.

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