• Burns will help to manage National Forest
     | April 14,2013

    Spring cleaning in the Green Mountain National Forest sometimes involves fire.

    The U.S. Forest Service is planning controlled burns in the Manchester and Middlebury ranger districts. The burns, which may cover as much as 800 acres, could happen in the next couple of weeks if the weather cooperates.

    Forest Service spokesman Ethan Ready said the burns happen almost annually and are part of the National Forests management plan.

    “We talk about how sportsmen and birdwatchers and other people want to see various species thriving in Vermont,” he said. “This is a way to make sure, in certain areas, there’s forage for game species.”

    The fires reduce heavy accumulations of brush, clearing the way for new and more diverse growth. Ready said the burns benefit game species large and small, from bear and moose to woodcock, grouse and wild turkey.

    “There’s been much greater awareness and growing interest in proactively using fire,” said Emily Boedecker, acting state director for the Nature Conservancy.

    Boedecker said that while the Nature Conservancy does not use controlled burns on its own land in Vermont, the organization has adopted the technique in the West.

    “There are definitely ecosystems that benefit from it,” she said. “It is a part of the natural cycle.”

    Ready said the Forest Service applies the technique in accordance with its management plan in areas maintained as wildlife habitat.

    Targeted locations this year are in Stratton, Wallingford, Danby, Mount Tabor, Weston, Peru, Winhall, Sunderland, Woodford, Arlington, Bennington, Wilmington, Lincoln, Granville, Ripton, Salisbury, Goshen, Rochester and Pittsfield.

    “It could be soon,” Ready said. “We’re waiting on some warm, dry weather at this point.”

    Conditions not only have to be dry enough for the brush to burn, Ready said, but winds have to be low to keep it from spreading. The Forest Service also wants to do the burns before too many green shoots appear.

    Several steps are taken to contain the fires, starting with “blacklining,” or creating a barrier of dug-up and pre-burned terrain around the area. Water is typically on hand, and often the burns are done near a stream or pond, which serves both as a water source and a barrier.

    The burns are performed by specially trained personnel, in coordination with the local fire departments, using “drip torches” — equipment that pours burning fuel onto the ground.

    “It’s used because it’s so direct,” Ready said. “You’re directly applying fire in certain areas.”

    The fires are not expected to affect local residents, though smoke may be visible in the surrounding areas and some access roads and trails may be temporarily closed during the burns. Burn sites themselves will be closed to the public.

    Information on the burns will be available at www.fs.usda.gov/greenmountain.

    @Tagline:gordon.dritschilo @rutlandherald.com

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