A prescribed burn occurred in two locations on the Canaan Valley NWR on Thursday, March 28, 2019. Residents and visitors to the Beall, Cortland and Timberline Road areas may have seen or smelled smoke periodically during this time. One unit was located east of Cortland Road and the other north of Timberline Road, with approximately 45 acres being burned. Expert fire teams burned to reduce hazardous fuels and remove dead biomass for future vegetation and habitat management, as well as to facilitate control of non-native plants, and restore important wildlife habitat. An old field/shrub area was burned to manage the habitat to benefit a greater diversity of plant species.
The fire team, consisting of partners from WV Division of Forestry, National Park Service (NPS), Canaan Valley Volunteer Fire Department and other USFWS offices, can only burn under favorable weather conditions to keep the fire manageable and minimize smoke in local communities. Because burning is weather-dependent, it is difficult to provide significant advanced notice of the timing of each burn. We appreciate your patience when it comes to this. The appropriate State and County agencies were notified ahead of these burns.
Because human safety was the number one priority during the controlled burning, some refuge roads were closed briefly to the public.
One of the reasons the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses controlled burns are to reduce flammable vegetation that could pose hazards to visitors and local communities if they burned in an uncontrolled wildfire. Controlled burns do much more than making the refuge safer. Controlled burning is an appropriate and effective tool to manage wildlife habitat: Research indicates that controlled burning has many benefits over other habitat management practices. Fire helps control undesirable exotic plants, maintains grassland habitat for nesting birds and small mammals, promotes wild flowers and other native plants, reduces the accumulation of organic debris and releases nutrients back into the soil.
The last time that a prescribed fire was completed at Canaan Valley NWR was 16 years ago. Our plan is to annually burn acreage to maximize native species regrowth over the refuge where possible.