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Monongahela National Forest Burns On Schedule

Eric Douglas
A National Park Service employee sets fire to a field in Grandview, part of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, to control invasive grasses in 2021.

Residents around parts of the Monongahela National Forest may be smelling smoke this week thanks to the Forest Service’s spring prescribed burns.

National Park Service employees burned more than 1500 acres of park land Tuesday north of White Sulfur Springs to improve forest health and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires.

Per a press release from the Monongahela National Forest, the controlled burn will improve wildlife habitat by re-establish fire’s natural role in the forest ecosystem and creating conditions that favor oak reproduction, as well as open fields and brushy habitat.

Traditionally, controlled burns have helped maintain West Virginia ecosystems, but their use declined significantly in the 20th century. According to the National Association of State Foresters and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils, prescribed burns have increased 28 percent from 2011 to 2019.

The Monongahela National Forest plans to conduct prescribed burns on nearly 3000 acres in Greenbrier and Pendleton counties from March through June, weather permitting.

Burn areas will be closed to the public on the day of the burn and may be closed for several days after to ensure public safety.

Residents and forest visitors may see and smell smoke for several days. Park service employees caution drivers, when they encounter smoke on the highway to slow down, turn on your vehicle’s lights and drive appropriately for the conditions.

North Central/Morgantown Reporter, cschulz@wvpublic.org, 304-284-1497, @SchulzReports

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