Federal burning is helpful

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 17, 2016

Prescribed burning will start on federal lands this month.

While the smoke can agitate allergies, asthma and even smell up your house and clothes if you live near federal lands, it is a necessary annual task for park rangers and wildlife firefighters.

The U.S. Forest Service has controlled burns led by a team of experts yearly because it reduces excessive amounts of grass and brush. It also helps reduce the possibility of catastrophic damage due to wildfire like we see in the news out west. Pre-planned burns by the forestry department are pre-planned, carefully analyzed and only conuducted when the weather is suitable for the large task. They will not burn when it is overly windy or dry and often do large tracts at once. The teams also study humidity, rainfall patterns and how it appears the smoke will disperse.

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“Prescribed fire plays an integral part in reducing fuels, improving all wildlife habitats, controlling competing vegetation, controlling disease and improving forage,” said Danny Bryant, fire management officer with the National Forests in Mississippi.   

Plants and animals native to pine habitats depend on natural fire cycles, which are mimicked through the use of prescribed fires to balance habitat and food sources.

Prescribed burning is conducted during annual rotations in which about 200,000 acres of national forest lands are burned on the National Forests in Mississippi.

We encourage you this month to be aware of if you are driving on federal land in the state and be prepared to slow down when a team is firing up brush alongside the road.

One handy tip when you know you are about to drive through federal land, like the Holly Springs National Forest or the Natchez Trace Parkway, both close to us in Lafayette County, is to put your air system in your vehicle on recirculate. You will take in much less smoke into the vehicle. Another tip is to use your low beam lights if you are driving through an area that has just been lit up and is producing a lot of smoke and fog. As always, drive a little slower when encountering this situation.

We are thankful for all the forest service does preserving Mississippi’s land and supporting its wildlife. Their work ensures generations to come can enjoy nature and all God’s creatures.