National Forest to conduct controlled burns for wildlife habitat improvement and to reduce the risk of wildfire

Contact(s): Dan McKeague (540) 552-4641

Blacksburg, Va. -March 19, 2019- 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 as well as manage for wildland hazardous fuels, Forest Service fire specialists may conduct controlled burns this spring, beginning as early as March 21. Safety is our top priority and we will conduct controlled burns in the following areas only under appropriate conditions:

Craig County:

Two controlled burns are planned in Craig County. One 280-acre burn is located six miles northwest of New Castle. The controlled burn is expected to have lingering smoke effects in the Barbours Creek Drainage. Depending on wind direction, residents and travelers may see or smell smoke along State Route (S.R.) 617, along Forest Service road (FS) 176, and around the community of Marshalltown.

The other controlled burn planned for Craig County covers 258 acres and is located in the Fenwick Mines Recreation Area. Resident and travelers my see and smell smoke in the Mill Creek and Craig Creek drainages, and around Barbours Creek, Marshalltown, and Virginia Mineral Springs.

Botetourt County:

Two controlled burns are planned in Botetourt County. A 352-acre controlled burn is located in the Craig Creek Recreation site, near Oriskany. Other nearby communities include Hipes and Horton. Smoke could impact these areas depending on wind direction.

A controlled burn covering 2,250 acres is planned on and around Patterson Mountain. The controlled burn will take place between Patterson Mountain and Patterson Creek Road. We expect smoke to be visible from multiple locations in Botetourt and Roanoke counties.  Depending on wind direction, residents in Eagle Rock and Glen Wilton may smell smoke.

Montgomery County:

In Montgomery County two burn units of up to 982 acres and 58 acres are planned for the Upper Craig Creek and Caldwell Fields area. The controlled burn will take place between County Road 621 and the east side of Sinking Creek Mountain. The smaller unit will take place along County Road 621. We expect smoke to be visible in Blacksburg and surrounding communities. Depending upon wind direction, residents near County Road 621 and Highway 42 may smell smoke.

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. 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. This burn will increase food sources including blueberry, huckleberry, acorns and hickory nuts. Prescribed burns also have the important benefit of keeping homes safe by reducing fuels to prevent large wildfires.

For more information on our prescribed burn program, please contact the Eastern Divide Ranger District office at (540) 552-4641.



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