When it comes to timber management prescribed burning is an outstanding implement in the toolbox of a professional forester. I’m sure we have all been driving down the highway at some point and noticed a particularly nice stand of timber or recreational property. It is most likely that prescribed burning has been a regular part of the management plan for that property. There are three recognizable benefits for properties that are managed with prescribed burning.
Prescribed burning is a great way to control the fuel that can build up under a timber stand if it is left alone. Without any treatment, years of needle cast, dead limbs, and whole trees dieing and falling on the ground can build up fuel for a mighty big fire. A wild fire like this can do serious damage to the forest, surrounding properties, and its improvements.
This is part of the problem in the west where fires are controlled and prevented, especially in government owned lands. Years of ground fuel building up, a particularly dry year, and a strategic lightning strike can cause ideal conditions for a wild fire. Regular prescribed burning can help eliminate and reduce available fuel so any wild fire is at best anemic and not nearly so damaging or lethal.
It’s the same issue in the east where forestry units maintain wildfires to just a few acres in size, so year after year, without attention, the woods are building up a tender box ready to explode with fire under the right conditions. A prescribed burning program on a property can prevent most of these potential disasters.
Not only can a prescribed fire help control wildfires, but it can also help control competition. Competition for water and nutrients are major concerns for timber managers, regarding growth and yields for pine plantations. In a world where chemicals are looked at with a suspicious eye, fire is a safe and relatively inexpensive in controlling competition for your woodland desired species. A good prescribed fire can generally kill hardwood competing species up to 2″ in diameter.
So, prescribed burning is a great tool to help add growth to the crop trees and improve your investment. Water and nutrients that aren’t being stolen by competing growth translates to volume on your trees and dollars in your pocket.
Finally, everyone loves wildlife. We all enjoy the birds and squirrels in the woods and look forward to the more elusive deer and turkey. Prescribed burning also benefits the wildlife on your property. Wildlife thrive on herbaceous growth and the luscious green plants following a recent fire. The older the underbrush gets, the more woody it becomes and less nutritious for wildlife. That unchecked underbrush turns into an understory of increasing heights with leafy food out of reach for the ground dwellers like deer and turkey, both of which love the browse created by spring growth following a late winter prescribed burn.
Without prescribed burning, you can walk through the forest and see what is called a browse line. A browse line is a level that is actually visible to the eye, where deer and the like have come to the limit of their reach for green leaves to eat.
So, prescribed burning is a very beneficial practice to not only the forest itself, but to your wildlife as well. In a day and age where chemicals are frowned upon, burning is a more organic approach to an age-old problem. Prescribed fire can also be used in a checkerboard fashion to maintain a juxtaposition of habitats that meet the need of all types of wildlife. With this excellent form of timber management, your wildlife will be looking healthier in no time.