The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests provide habitat for thousands of species across Virginia and West Virginia, including nearly 300 threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare wildlife and plants. To help preserve these and other species Forest Service fire specialists burned 58 acres in Montgomery County. This area has a population of the rare Liatris-Purple Gayfeather plant. Before fire was introduced to this area a few dozen individual plants were identified. After several prescribed fire treatments, the Liatris population has grown exponentially.
Experienced fire specialists closely monitored local weather conditions, such as wind and humidity, and making adjustments in the schedule as needed to ensure the safety of both crewmembers and local residents. Prior to lighting the burn, crews constructed and designated firebreaks to ensure the fire would not leave the burn area. The burn mimiced historic natural fire as much as possible.
We are rapidly losing young forests, open areas, and critical wildlife habitat due to 100 years of fire suppression and an aging forest. For thousands of years, fire shaped our forests and wildlife and our lands actually need fire to be healthy. Research shows that fire naturally occurred every 3-15 years in our area. Low intensity prescribed burns create open areas where a diverse mix of grasses, plants, and wildflowers grow and provide valuable food and cover for wildlife. These planned burns help to make the land healthier for people, water, and wildlife, such as bear, deer, turkey, and many migratory birds and many endangered species.