Prescribed burns planned

The Southern Region Prescribed Burn Accomplishment Tracker shows planned prescribed burns and their status. (Courtesy photo)

BANKHEAD NATIONAL FOREST - The USDA Forest Service began its annual season of prescribed burns in the Bankhead National Forest this month.
The National Forests in Alabama, which plans burns on 135,000 acres statewide, described prescribed burns  in a recent press release as “low-intensity, controlled fires ignited by trained Forest Service personnel" during “favorable weather” and other favorable conditions.
This year, the Bankhead Ranger District plans to burn 18,000 acres in the national forest, including approximately 12,000 in Winston County, to reduce the amount of potential fuel for wildfires and to improve habitat for wildlife.
“There's basically two primary reasons for all of our landscape burns. The first reason would be for fuel reduction. It just controls the woody fuels so that we can better manage if there were to be a wildfire,” Bankhead District Ranger Andy Scott said. “The second reason is for habitat management. It's for providing a different type of habitat than you would get on forests without prescribed fire.
“One of the things that we're trying to do in the forest is create more (of) what are called woodland conditions. That means more open forest area where the ground cover is more of the grasses and forbs rather than woody plants,” Scott continued. “It provides more food (and) provides a different kind of cover and habitat for these different animals that really need it.”
The animals that benefit from this habitat management include game animals such as whitetail deer, turkeys and quail and non-game animals such as numerous other bird species, salamanders and snakes, Scott said.
Currently, the Bankhead District is conducting dormant season burns. Growing season burns will begin here around April, according to Scott.
"Growing season burns have a different impact on the understory vegetation,” Scott said. “(They) really knock back the growth of young seedlings and other woody plants that we're trying to reduce. That's more of a habitat management focus rather than just a fuel focus. During the dormant season, it's both fuel reduction and habitat (management).”
A third type of prescribed burn is a site prep burn, Scott said. The Bankhead District will conduct one of those near its Natural Bridge Picnic Area this year to prepare the site for the planting of longleaf pine. “There's timber that has already been harvested (there),” Scott said. “(The prescribed burn) will (be done) to remove a lot of the big, heavy downed wood, the woody debris left over from the harvesting, as well as kill as much (as possible) of the woody vegetation that’s there. That way the new seedlings will have a good open place to start growing.”
So far this year, the USFS has completed prescribed burns at the following Winston County locations: Mt. Olive (665 acres), Holmes Chapel (794 acres), Mill Creek East (290 acres), Inman Creek (792 acres), Spear (244 acres), Shoe Barn (252 acres), Oh Bryan’s (61 acres), Slick Ford Block E (138 acres) and Slick Ford Block F (45 acres).
Prescribed burns are planned in Winston County at Beech Creek, Walston Ridge and Walston Ridge west of Forest Service Road 253, Brushy Lake, Davis Creek, Straw Riddle, Antioch, Mill Creek, Grindstone North, Natural Bridge, Fairview, Houston and Rockhouse.
The public may keep track of planned burns and their status on the Southern Region Prescribed Burn Accomplishment Tracker at


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
Subscribe now!