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Prescribed Fire Plans on Long Island

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) plans and conductsprescribed burns on Long Island year-round. The treatment of grasslands through the use of prescribed fire is generally done in the spring and fall months, while woodland units, through the combinations of mechanical treatments and prescribed fire, can occur during any month between February and November when weather conditions permit. The plan calls for cooperation among federal, state, and local agencies as well as non-profit organizations. The burns are conducted in conjunction with personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Parks, Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, The Nature Conservancy and local fire departments.

Following the 1995 Long Island Pine Barrens wildfires, the DEC and other agencies have increasingly utilized prescribed fire as a management tool. Over the past four years, the DEC and personnel from The Nature Conservancy have conducted and will continue to conduct an extensive fuel reduction and habitat restoration prescribed burning program on the DEC's David A. Sarnoff Preserve. Work on this property began in 2005 with mechanical treatment of the vegetation on the property being conducted. Since 2006, personnel from cooperating agencies and groups along with volunteers, performed numerous prescribed burns on this property with more prescribed burns planned for 2009 and beyond.

Prescribed fire benefits include improvement of wildlife habitat by maintaining grasslands for nesting birds. Prescribed fire also improves wildlife habitat by maintaining a diverse forest environment. Other benefits include a reduction in highly combustible fuel loads that could potentially feed a wildland fire as well as the establishment and maintenance of fire breaks that make control and access to wildland fires easier to obtain. Prescribed fires also represent a valuable training opportunity for local firefighters who develop skills needed to fight wildland fires.

Before any prescribed fire is conducted a burn plan is developed. Burn plans outline management's objectives as well as a number of parameters which must be satisfied before any prescribed fire can take place. Before fires are conducted, careful consideration is given to environmental factors such as current and expected weather conditions and smoke management considerations in close coordination with the National Weather Service.

Individuals interested in viewing copies of Region One fire management plans, individual burn unit plans or general prescribed fire information should contact the Region One Forest Rangers at (631) 444-0291.

DEC notifies local law enforcement and local fire-fighting agencies before conducting any prescribed fires. Individuals, however, are still encouraged to report smoke columns to local authorities.

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