by Kyle Obermiller
A few weeks ago, I attended the North Carolina Certified Burners course offered by the North Carolina Forest Service, at Montgomery Community College in Troy, NC. State employees, federal employees, private landowners, private business owners and workers, and one lone non-profit employee (that would be me!) all attended the class. The purpose of the course was to train participants to complete prescribed burns within appropriate safety parameters in regards to weather conditions, fireline needs, burning techniques, and smoke management.
The N.C. General Assembly recognized the importance of prescribed burning with the passing of the N.C. Prescribed Burning Act in 1999. The act states that “prescribed burning of forestlands is a management tool that is beneficial to North Carolina's public safety, forest and wildlife resources, environment, and economy.” Here at the Triangle Land Conservancy, we currently utilize fire in our land management practices at Temple Flat Rock (TFR) in Wake County and Horton Grove Nature Preserve in Durham County. Fire as a management tool is a way to introduce disturbance into the ecosystem, and is of vital importance in maintaining early successional habitats such as those at Horton Grove and TFR, or reducing fuel loads in a pine or hardwood forest to decrease risk of a major wildfire.
While it’s true that burning will negatively affect some species, that’s to be said for just about any management activity. An important part of our job here at TLC is to create a diverse mosaic of habitats for wildlife and people to enjoy. Early successional habitats have many species that you have trouble finding in a maturing forest, such as Northern Bobwhites, Eastern Meadowlarks, Kingsnakes, Long-tailed Weasels, and my favorite bird, the Prairie Warbler. If you’ve been following our blogs for a while, you may have watched our video titled “Protecting Wildlife Habitat,” where our contracted burn boss tells his story of seeing a covey of 10 Northern Bobwhite Quail out at our TFR site. That must mean we’re doing something right!
A prescribed burn is a fun and exciting management tool, and we hope y’all will visit our preserves before and after burns to really see how the land responds, view how the herbaceous plants and native grasses sprout back in abundance, and watch as birds, field mice, rabbits, and other critters make a home hidden in the prairie. This is The Dirt – Tales from the Field, a blog written to give you an insider look into how we maintain the lands we all love and enjoy.