Game Commission Postpones Until 2010 Prescribed Burn Plans for SGL 176

May 7, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — With the window of opportunity set to close May 8, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials today announced the agency is postponing until 2010 plans to conduct a controlled burn on the Scotia Barrens on State Game Land 176 in Patton Township, Centre County.

In a briefing held on SGL 176 on March 6, agency officials announced, if weather conditions cooperated, that a one-day controlled burn would be conducted on a designated 95-acre parcel sometime between April 6 and May 8 to improve wildlife habitat in this unique ecosystem. Agency officials also explained how the planned prescribed burn would have reduced the possibility of an uncontrolled wildfire impacting the surrounding developed communities.

“While there is one day left until May 8, the existing moisture content would make it too difficult to maintain the burn,” said Bill Capouillez, Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management director. “There were several days during the window in which we had hoped to hold the burn, but either weather conditions were not cooperative or wildfires in other parts of the state diverted fire suppression resources.

“However, all of the work invested in preparing for this year’s use of prescribed fire will enable us to be ready earlier in the 2010 season.”

Capouillez reiterated that the Scotia Barrens ecosystem, which is a scrub oak/pitch pine barrens, depends on fire to regenerate itself. Prescribed burns are a tool used by the Game Commission to improve habitat and, in this case, would help maintain the ecological integrity of this unique habitat, which supports a number of wildlife and plant species of special concern.

“The one concern about not being able to conduct this controlled burn is that the fuel load – the leaf litter, pine needles and twigs on the forest floor – has not been reduced,” Capouillez said. “We had hoped to address this situation to decrease the chance that a catastrophic wildfire could be ignited by a lightening strike or by a cigarette carelessly tossed on the ground.”

Capouillez said that the agency limited itself to a window of opportunity from April 6 through May 8. This window was specifically selected to allow sufficient public notification and to avoid peak incubation period for ruffed grouse (May 8), songbird nesting (May 14) and the birth of fawns (June 1).

Capouillez noted that the Game Commission has conducted prescribed burns on more than 1,500 acres of State Game Lands over the past three years.

Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan cites fire as an important tool in managing certain habitats, including barrens, forests and grasslands, and for species of greatest conservation need. For more information, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on “Wildlife” in the left-hand column, click on “Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan.”

SGL 176 currently contains 6,231 acres in Ferguson, Half Moon and Patton townships.

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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission

Source: newswire

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