Monday, May 7, 2018

Prescribed Burns Scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Habitats near Southwestern Schuylkill County

(05/07/18) The Pennsylvania Game Commission has scheduled a prescribed burn near Southwestern Schuylkill County on Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to the Game Commission, the prescribed burn will take place on May 8 & 9, 2018 in Jefferson and Cold Spring Townships Dauphin County.  Smoke from the burn should be visible from the Pine Grove/Southwestern area of Schuylkill County.

State Game Land 210, totaling 11,237 acres, is located in Dauphin County. It contains a wide variety of habitat types within its borders and is home to a multitude of different wildlife species. Since over 95% of this State Game Lands is forested and the species mixture is predominately oak, the use of prescribed fire is very appropriate. 

The area to be treated with a prescribed fire totals 115 acres. In this area, there is a problem with regenerating scrub oak as well as other oak species such as scarlet, white and chestnut oak. Scrub oak provides a valuable and dependable source of acorns, as well as cover and nesting areas to many birds and mammals. Mountain laurel, red maple, blueberry and huckleberry shrubs have all created a thick layer of shade, limiting the amount of sunlight that hits the forest floor, inhibiting the oak acorns ability to sprout and regenerate. Also, a thick layer of accumulated leaves has created an additional barrier on the forest floor, making it even more difficult for the acorn roots to become established in the soil. A prescribed fire would reduce the number of competing shrubs and remove the leaf litter. 

There is also a need to regenerate the pitch pine that is present on the site. Pitch pine requires fire to regenerate. Fire causes the cones to open and the seed to disperse across the burned area. Pitch pine provides both food and thermal cover to wildlife, particularly during the harsh winter months. Due to their dense crown, they are a preferred species of the saw -whet owl during their migration.


Although the area may look a little different for a short time, the long and short-term effects will definitely benefit wildlife, the forest habitat and the users of State Game Lands. The blackened soil of the burn will remain in that condition for a short time, but will come alive with plants germinating from seeds exposed by the fire. Oak seedlings will begin to sprout very soon after a controlled burn. Seeds produced from the over story trees will germinate. Recent studies after State Game Lands fires also show reduction in ticks within the burned area. A controlled burn of this intensity will not impact most of the over story trees.  Most of the changes to the forest habitat will take place on the forest floor.  Some species (red maple, black birch and tulip poplar) will be reduced from the site for a number of years.  Within the following growing season, the site should be green and teeming with new plants – many of them rare plants that depend on fire to germinate and grow