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Prescribed Burn Underway to Create Oak-Savannah

CLC is working closely with the NCFS to conduct a safe burn 

The North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) and Catawba Lands Conservancy are working together to conduct a prescribed burn on Sept 28, 2012, at the Buffalo Creek Preserve in Mount Pleasant in northern Cabarrus County near the intersection of Malibu and Mt. Pleasant roads.

Buffalo Creek Preserve is a 392-acre permanently protected area owned by CLC. The burn will take place on a 70-acre portion of the preserve. The fire will last for a few hours with monitoring and patrol occurring for several hours to hinder fire reoccurrence. Measures are also in place for smoke control and monitoring.

Prior to taking ownership of the property in 2011, CLC staff observed native warm-season grasses in an area where trees had been harvested in 2008. Working with biologists from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), CLC further identified this area as one that would provide an opportunity to establish an important wildlife habitat.

The prescribed burn will help develop a piedmont oak-savannah, an open natural area that is conducive for the growth of native warm-season grasses. Within the next four months, an array of native grasses will grow within the burned area – providing an ideal habitat for grasshopper sparrows and populations of wild turkey quail and other birds. The prescribed burn will also help remove fuels from the soil and reduce the potential for wildfires.

Fire is a natural part of both the forest and grassland ecology. According to John Isenhour, a technical assistance biologist with the WRC, this prescribed burn is important because it will suppress woody regeneration and restore populations of native plants and grasses important to North Carolina’s wildlife.

“Savannah habitats are vital to many species of wildlife and are among the most rapidly declining ecosystems in the state,” said Isenhour.

Several rangers that are certified burners will be at the preserve to conduct the burn and ensure the safety of surrounding properties and natural areas. The rangers will be operating from a burning plan that is designed to accomplish the objectives of the burn and manage the fire conditions and smoke. In mid-March, CLC sent letters to residents living near the burn site to explain the burn process and address questions.

In December of 2011, the 392-acre Buffalo Creek Preserve was donated to CLC. In addition to what will soon be a 70-acre oak-savannah, the property protects at least 120-acres of active farmland and hayfields and will have a trail as part of the Carolina Thread Trail.