Governor Bentley proclaimed February Prescribed Fire Awareness Month. This comes after the Alabama Forestry Commission stated last month that they felt it was safe to start conducting controlled burns. The US Forest Service will be conducting controlled burns in some of Alabama’s National Forests over the next 5-6 months.
This past fall wildfires became a major problem for the Southeast. The Alabama Forestry Commission reports 2,645 wildfires just in Alabama from September 1st through December. So starting any kind of fire now might seem counterintuitive, but done properly a controlled burn can be very healthy for an environment. They key word here, of course, being controlled.
Some ecosystems require fire as a part of their natural process, to recycle nutrients and control certain vegetation or wildlife. If these natural fires are suppressed, which they often are for safety reasons, it can lead to an unhealthy forest. Forest crowding can put stress on the ecosystem, and some undergrowth can become fuel for larger wildfires down the road. It’s safer to conduct controlled burns to keep plant life at its healthiest distribution.
Another reason for controlled burns is pest control. Without the natural cycle in some forests insects can become a nuisance. If a bug or insect population gets out of hand, it can then harm other wildlife or plant species.
In any ecosystem everything is intertwined, so if you alter one thing it can throw the entire system off balance. Controlled burns are a good way to keep this balance in our forests, while also keeping the forests safe for us.