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Program Overview

Prescribed Fire Management Program

The Central Pine Barrens Prescribed Fire Management Program is an interagency collaborative program focused on the safe and effective use of prescribed fire as a vital management tool within the Central Pine Barrens to help ensure public safety and ecological health. As the Central Pine Barrens is a fire-prone and fire-dependent ecosystem, prescribed fire is the most important and effective management tool to help mitigate wildfires while improving this globally-valued and locally-distinct ecosystem.

The need for the development and implementation of a sustained prescribed fire management program was first identified nearly 25 years ago in the Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan and by the Wildfire Task Force in its fire management plan following the wildfires that torched thousands of acres of forest in the Rocky Point and Westhampton areas.  More recently, the arrival in the region ofHomepagetextrightphoto the southern pine beetle has been a swift and striking indicator identifying the critical need for prescribed fire and ecosystem management in the Central Pine Barrens. This small but mighty forest pest has caused significant and substantial loss of pitch pines from forests and urban areas since its detection in 2014. Additionally, tick density and abundance are very high in the forests of the pine barrens, leading to high exposure and health risks for those who visit and recreate in the area. Prescribed fire can help directly reduce the tick populations and related tickborne disease exposure, providing another important benefit to human health and safety.

In 2018, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation allocated $1.25 million to the Central Pine Barrens Commission, which facilitated the creation of this interagency prescribed fire program for the region. As a result, the Commission is facilitating the implementation of the program, working alongside local communities, fire departments, private and public landowners and state and federal organizations to bring an effective and safe program to the CPB and its residents. 

Why is Prescribed Fire Used?

Prescribed fire improves the safety of communities located near or within woodlands by reducing the intensity of potential wildfires and improving the ability of firefighters to safely access and extinguish wildfires. This public safety improvement is accomplished as the prescribed fire consumes fuels in the understory and then removes the overgrowth of shrubs and high-density small trees. This process breaks up the availability and continuity of the fuels, reducing the potential for wildfire spread and increases in intensity. Prescribed fire also creates more space among and between existing trees, which improves the ability to access and the forest to address any potential wildfires that ignite. Using prescribed fire to mitigate the risk of wildfire is an effective and encouraged tactic identified within the Central Pine Barrens Commission’s Land Use Plan as it is a tool successfully implemented, often used and widely supported by numerous agencies and landowners around the country and the world. 

In addition to reducing wildfire risk, the cumulative results of prescribed burning include many ecological benefits by facilitating a shifting mosaic of habitat types and successional stages on the Central Pine Barrens’ landscape. Properly implemented prescribed fire management strengthens ecosystem resistance and resiliency to pests, disease and fluctuations in weather and climate; increases native species diversity and abundance; ensures suitable and improved habitat for wildlife, including rare and endangered flora and fauna; retains species-specific fire adaptations; and improves and safeguards the ecosystem services, especially the filtration and recharge of water to Long Island’s aquifer system, which provides 100% of Long Island’s drinking water.

To learn more about the prescribed fire management program follow our Prescribed Fire Facebook page, email or call (631) 288-1079.