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Controlled burn set to take place on 15 acres of NCTC this month

By Staff | Apr 8, 2011

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to conduct a controlled burn at the National Conservation Training Center, located off Shepherd Grade Road, in early to mid-April, depending on suitable weather conditions.

Experienced firefighters from the FWS and the National Park Service will conduct a highly managed burn on approximately 15 acres. The objective is to remove invading trees and shrubs that would otherwise overtake the field.

To keep the fire manageable and minimize smoke, the burn will only take place under favorable weather conditions. Because burning is weather-dependent, the exact date for this activity won’t be known until shortly before it is carried out, at which time county and state officials will be notified.

Local residents and visitors may smell or see smoke in the area for a brief period of time, according to Phil Pannill, NCTC land manager.

Prescribed burning has been found to be the most effective way to maintain and promote the native prairie grasses, which include switchgrass, little bluestem, broomsedge, Indiangrass and big bluestem. These grasses, previously common in the Eastern Panhandle, thrive on fire, according to Pannill. Prairie grasses provide ideal habitat for nesting birds and small mammals because of the way the grasses grow – in clumps, or bunches – creating a layer of protection from predators and strong weather.

The National Conservation Training Center is the home of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a leader in environmental sustainability. The center provides quality training tailored to support Service employees and conservation partners in the accomplishment of the agency’s mission.

For more information about NCTC or its green practices, visit http://nctc.fws.gov.

– From staff reports