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Fire’s Role in Forest Management
Approximately 77 percent of Mississippi’s 19.8 million forested acres are privately owned. In order to sustain healthy forests and maintain the economic viability of forestland, forest management is vital.
Forest management practices such as thinning and prescribed burning create healthier, more productive forests. Overcrowded trees often struggle to survive, weakening them against insects or disease. Thinning competing trees allows the remaining trees to grow faster and be more resistant to pests. Prescribed burning removes competing vegetation, improves habitat for wildlife, and reduces dangerous buildup of combustible forest fuels.
Fire plays a vital role in maintaining certain ecosystems. Although there have been regional variations across the United States, fire has been used as a management tool throughout history. In the South, it has been used to maintain oak and pine savannas, clear brush, create wildlife habitat, clear land for agriculture, control pests, and improve livestock grazing.
What is Prescribed Fire?
Prescribed fire, also known as a controlled burn, refers to the controlled application of fire by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions that help restore health to fire-adapted environments.
This process reintroduces the beneficial effects of fire into an ecosystem, producing the kinds of vegetation and landscapes we want. Prescribed fire reduces the hazard of catastrophic wildfire caused by excessive fuel buildup. For more on what prescribed fire is, visit Smokey Bear’s page on the subject.
Prescribed fires are carefully planned, controlled, and executed by trained personnel with specific objectives and parameters.
The benefits of prescribed fire are many. They include hazardous fuel reduction, soil rejuvenation, water quality improvement, increased animal and plant diversity, wildlife habitat improvement, insect and disease control, and more.
Despite the challenges of a prescribed burn, a properly planned and executed prescribed burns should not cause adverse effects to health and human welfare, our water supply, or the air we breathe.
- The Southern Forestry Smoke Management Guidebook
- Smoke Management Guide for Prescribed and Wildland Fire 2001 Edition
For safety and legal reasons, certain groups should be notified before a prescribed burn to prevent unnecessary concerns and danger. Notifying neighbors, fire departments and local law enforcement officials should be part of each prescribed burn plan. Notification may be required by your state, county or city. You should check whether a burn permit is required and if there is a burn ordinance in effect for your area. You should also provide a copy of the burn plan to the local fire department or other designated authorities.