HARRISBURG – With Spring comes ideal weather conditions for prescribed burning. Southern Illinoisans may see fire across the landscape – from the national forest, to state and privately-owned lands. Prescribed fire has many benefits including helping maintain healthy forests and the native plants and animals they support.
By bringing fire back to the forest, Shawnee National Forest aims to:
- Encourage the growth of a diverse array of plant life, including sun-loving plants and grasses.
- Ensure oaks and hickories remain keystone species in eastern forests. Oaks & hickories provide food for about 100 different animals. Using fire to bring light into the forests helps oaks and hickories get established and grow. Without fire, shade-tolerant species will take over and eventually replace oak and hickories as the dominant species in the forest.
- Protect human property by reducing the amount of down, dead wood in the forest. That way if a wildfire happens, it would be less intense, and potentially easier to control.
- Perpetuate prairie and savannah remnants found within the forest. These remnant plant communities provide habitat for several early-successional song bird species, such as prairie warblers and Henslow’s sparrow. Maintaining these open woodland conditions with prescribed fire increases biodiversity in both plant and animal species.
“Fire rejuvenates the forest. It increases nutrient availability, favors some plants over others, and can remove dead vegetation and smaller trees and brush. This lets more sunlight into the forest floor, which is important for oak trees, the dominant tree in Illinois’ forests, and many sun-loving plants,” said Scott Crist, the forest’s Fire Management Officer.
To learn more about prescribed burning on the Shawnee, please contact Scott Crist at the Shawnee Headquarters Office at 618-253-7114.
About Prescribed Fire
Prescribed fire is a planned fire that is overseen by professionals. It is performed under specific weather conditions and are designed to mimic fire that historically occurred on the forest.
The size of each prescribed burn varies but people located near the burn may notice smoke during and after the burn. The Forest Service monitors smoke generated during prescribed burns. On most burns, members of the public can expect smoke to be visible in mid-afternoon and dissipate within a few hours.