Bath and Alleghany County: Forest Service Plans Prescribed Burns to Benefit Wildlife Habitat and Reduce the Risk of Wildfire

Release Date: Feb 9, 2018  

Contact(s): Elizabeth McNichols (540) 839-2521

(February 9, 2018) Warm Springs, VA – The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests provide habitat for thousands of species across Virginia and West Virginia, including nearly 300 threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare wildlife and plants.  To help preserve these and other species, Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy fire specialists are planning to conduct controlled burns in several areas in Bath County, VA.  These projects will occur between early March and late May 2018.  Expect smoke to be visible in Bath and northeast Alleghany Counties.

Prior to conducting the burn, the Forest Service plans to issue a media advisory to notify local residents. The project areas will close temporarily while the burn is taking place and signs will be posted notifying the public of the closure.  We ask that forest visitors use caution when traveling in the vicinity of the prescribed burn.

The Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy conduct controlled burns in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Virginia Department of Forestry.  Safety is our primary concern during these prescribed burns.  The fire experts assigned to these projects are highly trained and have years of experience in protecting surrounding communities, themselves, and the land they are working to restore.  Experienced fire specialists will closely monitor local weather conditions, such as wind and humidity, and make adjustments in the schedule as needed to ensure the safety of both crewmembers and local residents.  Prior to lighting the burn, crews construct and designate firebreaks to ensure the fire does not leave the burn area.  The burn will mimic historic natural fire as much as possible.  The fire will move slowly in areas, but in grassy areas may spread rapidly with high flames for short periods of time within containment lines.  Some individual trees will burn, but the fire should travel mostly across the forest floor in wooded areas.  In riparian areas we expect the fire to burn slowly and go out on its own.

We are rapidly losing young forests, open areas, and critical wildlife habitat due to 100 years of fire suppression and an aging forest.  For thousands of years, fire influenced the diversity of our forests and wildlife.  Our lands actually need fire to be healthy.  Research shows that fire naturally occurred every 3-15 years in our area.  Prescribed burns create open areas where a diverse mix of grasses, plants, and wildflowers grow and provide valuable food and cover for wildlife.  These planned burns help to make the land healthier for people, water, and wildlife, such as bear, deer, turkey, and many migratory birds and many endangered species.

For more information about specific burn projects and their locations, or for our prescribed burn program, please contact the Warm Springs District at (540) 839-2521.