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December 23, 2009

Prescribed burns planned at Forty Acre Rock Preserve

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources' Heritage Trust Program will work with the S.C. Forestry Commission to conduct several prescribed burns on about 400 acres of Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve/Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County over the next few months.

The entire preserve encompasses 2,267 acres, so the 400 acres to be burned is about 17 percent of the total acreage. The areas to be burned are upland sites dominated by pines, and/or upland areas where longleaf and shortleaf pine grasslands will be restored, according to Johnny Stowe, wildlife biologist and heritage preserve manager with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"The main goal of these fires is to restore and maintain the natural character and ecological integrity of the longleaf and shortleaf pine grassland ecosystem that naturally belongs on parts of the preserve's highest ridges, but has declined as a result of fire suppression," Stowe said. "Another important goal is to reduce fuel loads and thereby help prevent intense wildfires."

These carefully-planned prescribed burns will take place over several days, according to Stowe. It is impossible to plan far ahead of time and choose the exact dates that these burns will take place, because weather and other factors dictate when conditions are right. Firebreaks have been plowed and/or raked in preparation for the burns, and prescribed fire management plans are being written to guide the trained professionals who will conduct the burns. The fires will be carried out by Certified Prescribed Fire Managers and other qualified support staff that will follow the legal and other guidelines required to conduct such burns, thereby ensuring public safety.

Wildlife habitat, including deer and turkey feeding and cover areas, will in the long run be enhanced by these prescribed fires, Stowe said. The preserve's major hollows, creek bottoms and other sites forested in large oak and other hardwood trees will not be burned.

Formed by state law in 1976, the Heritage Trust Program has protected 83,959 acres on 73 state heritage preserves found throughout South Carolina.

South Carolina's natural resources are essential for economic development and contribute nearly $30 billion and 230,000 jobs to the state's economy. Find out why Life's Better Outdoors.


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