Pa. Game Commission Plans Controlled Grassland Burns in Region

JEFFERSON CO., Pa. (EYT) – Pennsylvania Game Commission Northwest Region Director Richard T. Cramer announced that more than 3,493 acres of State Game Lands and Hunter Access properties in the region have the potential to be treated using controlled burns in 2018. 

Controlled burning is a habitat enhancement tool that can be used effectively to promote healthy forests, oak regeneration, and grasslands.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission also had plans to conduct a controlled burn on 3-4 parcels of warm-season grasses totaling approximately 15-20 acres Monday.

The parcels are located on various sections surrounding Shenango Reservoir known as Area 415 in Pymatuning Township, Mercer County. Based on weather conditions and moisture in the ground and vegetation, the Burn Boss gave the go-ahead for this burn to be conducted on Monday.

Fire helps to promote oak forest regeneration by reducing competition from less desirable tree species (such as black birch and red maple) through a controlled and slow-moving fire. After fire moves through an area, more fire-tolerant oak trees and seedlings remain and become the dominant species as the forest grows. Oak acorns benefit a variety of wildlife because of their high nutritional value and are sought after as a fall food source by a variety of birds and mammals as they prepare for winter.

“Controlled burn operations are scheduled to be conducted on 21 different State Game Lands and Hunter Access properties, located in the ten counties of the Northwest Region this year. The Game Commission has been using controlled burns to improve wildlife habitat for many years with outstanding results,” said Cramer.

Throughout controlled burn operations, safety is the primary consideration from planning through implementation. The entire operation is supervised by a “Burn Boss,” who develops a detailed plan which is approved by the Game Commission and other agencies. Timing of the burn is weather dependent and takes into account the amount of moisture both in the ground and on the growing vegetation. Access to the burn site is restricted to only highly trained fire personnel and all necessary local fire and emergency personnel are notified in advance.

In the weeks prior to a burn, fire breaks are established or maintained around the entire area. Just prior to initiating burn operations, a small and easily extinguished “test fire” burn is conducted to check fire behavior and smoke-dispersal patterns. If the Burn Boss approves the fire to proceed, an experienced crew made up of personnel from the Game Commission and other natural-resources agencies use a regimented process to burn the site.

Work crews are assigned to various jobs including interior ignition, wind and temperature monitoring, and perimeter containment using specialized Utility Task Vehicles, water packs, and a variety of hand tools. As the fire begins to burn out, areas with flames near the perimeter are extinguished and those on the interior are allowed to burn out gradually. The entire area is then closely monitored over the next few days.

State Game Lands in the Northwest Region, and the acreage scheduled to receive controlled burn treatment included:

SGL 024 (Forest County, 518 acres);

SGL 054 (Jefferson County, 575 acres);

SGL 063 (Clarion County, 319 acres);

SGL 072 (Clarion County, 300 acres);

SGL 074 (Clarion County, 8 acres);

SGL 085 (Crawford County, 233 acres);

SGL 086 (Warren County, 225 acres);

SGL 162 (Erie County, 47 acres);

SGL 164 (Butler County, 4 acres);

SGL 167 (Erie County, 29 acres);

SGL 178 (Lawrence County, 3 acres);

SGL 244 (Jefferson County, 10 acres);

SGL 263 (Erie County, 22 acres);

SGL 266 (Clarion County, 30 acres);

SGL 277 (Crawford County, 76 acres);

SGL 282 (Warren County, 10 acres);

SGL 284 (Mercer County, 170 acres);

SGL 294 (Mercer County, 13 acres);

SGL 314 (Erie County, 81 acres);

SGL 330 (Clarion County, 1,014 acres).

Additionally, the Game Commission will assist landowners in conducting controlled burns on Hunter Access properties within the northwest region.

“Controlled burn operations are initiated in March and will continue through late fall,” Cramer explained. “Areas treated with controlled burns will not be a pretty sight initially, however, these operations will ultimately result in areas with excellent habitat that is beneficial to wildlife.”

A controlled burn notification map that details information on burns that are planned and burns that are imminent can be found on the Game Commission website at under wildlife/habitat management/controlled burning.

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