Prescribed burns maintain training lands
November 16, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Nov. 14, 2012) -- A prescribed fire is a planned fire used as a management tool by many area landowners. Each year, Fort Benning's Land Management Branch burns approximately 30,000 acres of Fort Benning training lands using prescribed fire methods.
Much of this burning is required under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion for Endangered Species Management.
James Parker, chief of the Land Management Branch, said Fort Benning, like other landowners, burns for a variety of reasons.
"We burn to maintain sustainable training lands, restore the longleaf pine ecosystem, enhance habitat for wildlife and endangered species, reduce wildfire occurrences, reduce pests, and to maintain biodiversity," Parker said. "Under the USFWS BO, every upland pine stand on the installation must be burned no less than once every three years."
Although nearly one third of the installation's training lands have to be burned each year, Tannis Danley, Fort Benning's Air Quality Program analyst, said she appreciates the effort the Land Management Branch puts in to minimizing potential smoke impacts.
"By keeping fire sizes small, 250 acres on average, and monitoring changing atmospheric conditions, like wind and humidity, Fort Benning foresters effectively reduce the amount of pollution that might otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere by wildfires. By controlling the size and conditions of the fires, they have a tremendous, positive impact on our local and regional air quality," she said.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Southern Group of State Foresters agree.
In a 2010 annual report, SGSF wrote, "It is significantly better to manage smoke from prescribed fires when burning can be done under favorable atmospheric conditions and smoke can be directed away from population centers, rather than risk the dangers associated with wildfires, including the human health impacts from uncontrolled wildfire smoke."
Since increasing the number of prescribed burn acres each year, Fort Benning has seen a significant reduction in wildfires.
"We understand, given the amount of burning required and despite our best efforts, there will occasionally be smoke impacts in cantonment areas of Fort Benning and the surrounding communities, Danley said. "We also understand that some individuals are more sensitive to smoke and in many cases, information is an integral part of the prevention of health related issues. We believe it is part of our duty, as responsible stewards, to communicate with our neighbors concerning activities that might impact them.
"For that reason, the Fort Benning Environmental Management Division and the Public Affairs Office invite interested parties to request notification of fires on the installation," Danley said.
In order to burn the requisite number of acres each year and to conduct burning under the weather conditions that are conducive to effective burns and minimum smoke impacts, Fort Benning foresters set prescribed fires between October and May, conducting most prescribed burning during the late fall and winter months.
If you would like to receive an email notification for each prescribed burn, as well as notification of wildfires as they occur, please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org, and your name will be added to the notification list.