Posted Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Two Days of Burning Planned — Dates Weather Dependant

Controlled Burns Planned for Great Swamp Wildlife RefugeThe U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service will conduct a series of controlled burns for up to two days later this month or in April at two wetlands locations in the Harding section of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Actual dates are dependent on weather conditions, favorable winds for smoke to rise and disperse, and the availability of trained wildland firefighters. The use of prescribed fire to restore habitat is part of the refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which was finalized November of 2014.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1960, in part, to provide habitat for migrating ducks and geese (waterfowl), and for the conservation of the nation’s wetlands.  Five artificial wetlands, also called impoundments, were constructed in the early 1970s and 1980s to provide migrating, nesting, brood-rearing, and feeding habitat for waterfowl.

photo shows a controlled burn

Conducting a controlled burn. (Photo/Ken Badger)

Over the past decade, woody vegetation has invaded three impoundments and standing dead vegetation has formed thick mats, reducing the amount of open water available for waterfowl.

The Fish and Wildlife Service regularly conducts prescribed burns on refuge lands to maintain and restore habitat for wildlife.  The goal of these prescribed burns is to increase the amount of open water available to waterfowl by reducing the amount of standing dead vegetation and invading woody vegetation in three of the impoundments.

Once restored, these impoundments will provide better feeding, nesting, brood rearing, and resting habitat for all waterbird species that use the refuge. In addition to improved habitat, visitors to the refuge also benefit from prescribed burns because fire promotes native species and habitats, thus increasing wildlife observation opportunities.

Controlled Burns Planned for Great Swamp Wildlife RefugeIn total, the agency expects to burn 148 acres across the two impoundments. Each impoundment will require an active burning period of 2 to 6 hours, thus about 2 days will be needed to complete the burns.

Each burn will be carried out from mid-morning to late afternoon, contingent on the right weather conditions.  Existing refuge roads and mowed fire lines around the burn units will be used to contain the fire within the burn units.

Trained fire personnel with specialized equipment will ignite, monitor, and control the fire and its resulting smoke. In addition, water will be released back into the impoundments upon completion of the burns.

Controlled Burns Planned for Great Swamp Wildlife RefugeLocal emergency personnel, including the local police and fire departments, also will be notified prior to each prescribed burn.

On days of prescribed burns, the refuge, Visitor Center, and Wildlife Observation Center will remain open to the public.  However, Pleasant Plains Road and associated parking areas will be closed from just south of the Visitor Center parking lot to the South Gate of the refuge.

For additional information, please view the Refuge website or contact the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge office at 973-417-9542.