Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been reestablished, online operations will continue. On-going operational updates will be posted here (https://www.fs.fed.us/shutdown) as we are able to provide them.


Big Levels Area Burn will Promote Wildlife and Reduce the Risk of Wildfire

Contact(s): Lauren Stull (540) 291-2188

(4/11/2018) Natural Bridge Station, 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 fire specialists are burning 245 acres in Augusta County, Virginia. Burning will occur today. We expect smoke to be visible; particularly in nearby locations and residents in Stuarts Draft, Lyndhurst and Sherando may smell smoke. The smoke will most likely settle in lower elevations during the early morning.

The prescribed burn will take place approximately 5.5 miles southeast of Stuarts Draft, Virginia and is accessible by the Coal Road (FSR #42). Portions of the Coal Road (FSR#42) may be closed temporarily while the burn is taking place for the safety of the public and firefighters.

Safety is our primary concern during this controlled burn. The fire experts assigned to this burn 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 down the ridges with low flames. Some individual trees will burn, but the fire should travel mostly across the forest floor.

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 shaped our forests and wildlife and our lands actually need fire to be healthy. Research shows that fire naturally occurred every 3-15 years in our area. Low intensity 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.

In 2016 and 2017 other portions of national forest land in this area were successfully treated with controlled burning. Forest Service biologists, foresters and firefighters will monitor the effects of this burn and previous year’s controlled burns to determine the ideal controlled burn timing and parameters for wildlife habitat improvement and restoration of yellow pines, such as shortleaf pine, to this area of the forest.

For more information on our controlled burn program, please contact the Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger District at (540) 291-2188.