The Baer Rocks Burn, which it is being referred to as, covers State Game Land 217, totaling 7,647 acres, is located in northern Lehigh, southern Carbon and southern Schuylkill counties. It contains a wide variety of habitat types within its borders and is home to a multitude of different wildlife species. Since over 97% of this State Game Land is forested and 95% of that area consists of mixed oak forests, the use of a prescribed burn is a very appropriate management tool.
The area to be treated with a prescribed burn totals 190 acres. It contains a mature oak stand that is dominated by chestnut oak. Forest fires were a common occurrence on this ridge in the early 1900's, which led to the establishment of this oak stand. The lack of fire over the past 60 years has led to an open, almost barren understory.
The goal of this prescribed burn is to recreate the conditions that led to the establishment of this aging oak forest. Currently there is a large amount of sassafras, black gum and red maple trees growing under the oak canopy. These small trees are casting dense shade on the forest floor. A prescribed burn has the potential to remove a large number of these trees.
By removing some of the less desirable species, the prescribed burn not only reduces competition for the oaks, but it will also allow more sunlight to hit the forest floor. Sunlight is necessary for the acorns to sprout. Oak trees are extremely valuable to wildlife, so the failure of these acorns to germinate is a problem. A thick layer of accumulated leaves has also created an additional barrier on the forest floor, making it difficult for the acorn roots to become established in the soil. A fire will burn and remove much of this leaf layer.
This is an aging oak stand that will undoubtedly have to deal with the loss of large oak trees in the coming years. It is vital that there are younger oak trees in the understory to replace these aging oaks. If oak seedlings are not available, this stand will eventually be replaced by red maple, birch, sassafras and black gum. The only effective way to maintain this invaluable oak component is with the use of a prescribed burn.
Prescribed burns will not be conducted after November 20th, to not interfere with upcoming hunting season.