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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

March 20, 2015Governor's proclamation brings attention to the benefits of prescribed burning

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has proclaimed March 2015 Prescribed Fire Awareness Month in South Carolina.

A coalition of state, federal and non-governmental land management organizations under the umbrella of the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council requested the proclamation to raise awareness of the essential role that fire plays in both the stewardship of our natural resources and the protection of lives and property.

Prescribed, or controlled, burning is the skilled application of fire under planned weather and fuel conditions to achieve specific forest and land management objectives. Controlled burning is an ancient practice, notably used by Native Americans for crop management, insect and pest control, and hunting habitat improvement, among other purposes.

The practice continues today under the direction of land managers who understand the appropriate weather conditions, fuel loads and atmospheric conditions for conducting such burns. These carefully applied fires are an important tool to reduce wildfires, maintain wildlife habitat, and keep the more than 13 million acres of forested land in South Carolina healthy and productive.

While prescribed burning cannot stop all wildfires, it is the best management tool available for preventing larger and more frequent outbreaks. “Prescribed burning is not only the most effective, economical protection against wildfires because it reduces accumulated fuels,” said Haley in her proclamation, “but it is also a key tool in managing and maintaining the ecological integrity of South Carolina’s woodlands, grasslands, agricultural areas and wildlife habitats.”
Johnny Stowe, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife biologist and heritage preserve manager and member of the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council, said prescribed burning is done on about a half-million acres each year in South Carolina, but at least one million acres should be burned annually in the Palmetto State.

"The use of prescribed fire as a land management tool has deep and ancient roots in South Carolina’s heritage." said Stowe. "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. Fire-maintained lands also have a special unique beauty. The open, park-like vistas of properly burned lands appeal to many of us."

“Many landowners are reluctant to apply prescribed fire to their woodlands and natural areas because they lack the skills and knowledge needed to do it safely and effectively,” said T.J. Savereno, Clemson Extension associate and chair of the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council.

“Much of this land accounts for the additional acreage that should properly be managed with fire. The Prescribed Fire Council is dedicated to promoting the responsible use of prescribed fire and assisting landowners and forestry professionals. We greatly appreciate Governor Haley’s help with achieving these objectives by issuing this proclamation.”

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