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Controlled Burns and Enhancing Capacity in the Central Appalachians

Prescribed burn in the Central Appalachians. Photo: Marek Smith.
Despite a wet start to the 2015 prescribed fire season in many parts of the region, the Central Appalachians Fire Learning Network (FLN) partners were able to burn nearly 8,700 acres in the Heart of the Appalachians (VA/WVA), 12,900 acres in the Keystone Appalachians (PA), and 6,200 acres in the Cumberland River (KY) landscapes this year. Achieving 28,000 acres of burns across the network can be attributed to the increased coordination among partners making the most of small burn windows.

Among the highlights was the 400-acre Summers Mountain burn in the Highland Wildlife Management Area in Highland County, VA. Thanks to the FLN’s role in helping develop a new prescribed burn policy for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and MOUs between all partners, this was both the largest burn in DGIF history and the largest in Virginia where U.S. Forest Service staff have burned on DGIF lands.

In addition, a frequently identified barrier to prescribed burns is insufficient implementation capacity. To help mitigate that challenge, the Conservancy’s Virginia chapter, funded through a Scaling-up to Promote Ecosystem Resiliency (SPER II) grant, contracted with Wildland Restoration International (WRI) to provide a four-person module in the spring of 2015. The module helped prep and implement controlled burns on 2,942 acres in the Heart of the Appalachians landscape and prepped another 1,344 acres for upcoming burns. The success of this crew led the chapter to again contract with WRI, this time through a participating agreement funded by a Forest Service Supplemental Wildland Fire Hazardous Fuels (WFHF) project, to provide a four-person module for the spring of 2016. With additional funding from the Forest Service Region 8, two more modules will be supported in the Southern Blue Ridge FLN. The three modules—based in Virginia, North Carolina/Tennessee and Georgia/South Carolina—will be available for three months, for work spanning state, federal, local and private lands. For more information: http:// www.conservationgateway.org/ConservationPractices/FireLandscapes/ FireLearningNetwork/RegionalNetworks/Pages/CentralApps.aspx