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Benefits of Prescribed Burning are many, but challenges abound

From the SC Department of Natural Resources

-- The use of prescribed fire as a land management tool has deep and ancient roots in South Carolina's heritage, but conducting prescribed burns is becoming increasingly challenging . There are a variety of factors, according to Johnny Stowe, S.C. Department of Natural Resources representative to the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council.

Properly conducted prescribed burns, also called controlled burns, have multiple benefits, said Stowe, who is a SC DNR wildlife biologist, forester and heritage preserve manager. He is also a landowner who burns his own land.

Prescribed fires help restore and maintain vital habitat for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and other grassland birds, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Besides the many wildlife species that require fire-dependent habitat, many plants thrive only in regularly burned forests.

The demise of the longleaf pine forest and associated grasslands, which once made South Carolina one of the best quail hunting states, is closely correlated to the decrease of woods burning. Also, plants like the insectivorous pitcher plants, sundews, and Venus' fly trap-as well as many other plant species, some of them rare, require fire.
   
 "Fire-maintained lands also have a special unique beauty," Stowe said. "The open, park-like vistas of properly-burned lands appeals to many of us."

 Stowe can be reached via e-mail at stowej@dnr.sc.gov or by calling (803) 419-9374 in Columbia. For more information on the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council, visit its Web site at www.clemson.edu/for/rxfire.

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