The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP) announced its plans for conducting controlled burns on the Shawangunk Ridge for the 2013 season which extends from mid-March to mid-December. Burns are planned to take place at several locations at Mohonk Preserve, 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.
“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 2013 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.”
Controlled burns are set safely and intentionally under predetermined conditions and are not set unless all of the required conditions (including moisture levels and wind) are met. Burns are conducted in the Shawangunks in the spring and the fall by experienced crews with in-depth training, who work closely with meteorologists and other scientists to determine when conditions are right for a burn to take place. To date, 21 burns totaling about 330 acres have been conducted in the Shawangunks.
“Changes in our local weather patterns may result in greater frequency of wildfire,” said Cara Lee, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Shawangunk Ridge Program. “Using controlled burns is a prescription for less severe wildfires in the future, which is desirable for people who live in the vicinity as well as the ecosystem and the life it supports.”
The Shawangunk Ridge burn team draws on the fire management expertise of staff from The Nature Conservancy.