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Shawnee National Forest to use prescribed fire

Shawnee National Forest plans to use prescribed fire Wednesday and Thursday, weather permitting.

Prescribed fire is a planned fire that is overseen by professionals. Fall marked the beginning of the forest’s prescribed burn season, during which professionals plan to burn up to 10,000 acres. Prescribed fires are performed under specific weather conditions and are designed to mimic fire that historically occurred on the forest.

Fire helps maintain healthy oak forests, according to scientists who study birds, native plants and other wildlife. That’s why Shawnee National Forest uses fire as a tool to restore Southern Illinois forests.

People may notice smoke:

· around Eddyville, coming from the area south of Jackson Falls in Pope County (about 450 acres); or

· around Tamms, coming from areas south of Wolf Creek Rd and south of Opossum Trot Trail Road (FR 628) in Alexander County (about 1,000 acres total).

The Forest Service will monitor smoke generated during the prescribed burn. Members of the public can expect smoke to be visible in mid-afternoon and dissipate within a few hours.

By bringing fire back to the forest, Shawnee National Forest hopes to:

· Encourage the growth of a diverse array of plant life, including sun-loving plants and grasses.

· Ensure oaks remain the keystone species in our forests. Oaks provide food for about 100 different animals. Using fire to bring light into our forests helps oaks grow. Without fire, shade-tolerant species will take over and eventually replace the oak as the dominant species in our forest.

· Protect human property by reducing the amount of down, dead wood in the forest. That way if a wildfire happens, it would be less intense.

· Perpetuate prairie and savannah remnants found within the forest. These remnant plant communities provide habitat for several early-successional song bird species, such as prairie warblers and red-headed woodpeckers. Maintaining these open woodland conditions with prescribed fire increases biodiversity in both plant and animal species.