NJ Forest Fire Service Plans Prescribed Burns For Thousands Of Acres In State Forests

By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – To reduce wildfire risk and manage natural resources, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service burns the buildup of undergrowth, leaves, branches, and pine needles on forest floors every year.

This task, called prescribed burning, takes place from February to April. By doing this, high-intensity wildfires are being prevented that would result in carbon losses.

The Department of Environmental Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette explained the importance of prescribed burning and how beneficial it is to the environment.

“Prescribed burning is a safe activity that is planned with strategic input from multiple DEP programs to reduce and eliminate the materials that fuel wildfires while protecting public safety,” LaTourette stated. “Prescribed burning also helps minimize the adverse impacts of climate change by limiting significant and harmful releases of carbon during wildfires.”

The Forest Fire Service plans to burn 25,000 acres of grasslands, marsh, and forests this year with prescribed fire. Benefits of prescribed burning include reducing forest floor fuels, improving habitats for plants and animals, improving soil health, and reducing the number of harmful insects and ticks.

Prescribed burning occurs the most throughout the New Jersey Pinelands, where fire is actually a necessary tool. The dominant species of pine in New Jersey is called pitch pine. Pitch pine does not release their seeds until exposed to fire, when they open. Pitch pine trees are also able to sprout new growth from their stump or roots, so they can grow again in a burned area.

In 2022, the Forest Fire Service completed prescribed burns on a total of 16,982 acres of land. This included 11,925 acres of state-owned land, 3,363 acres of government-owned land, and 1,694 acres of private property.

In addition to prescribed burning, the Forest Fire Service and the New Jersey Forest Service work to create forest management plans that defend lives, property, and natural resources from wildfire. To learn more about wildfires in New Jersey, visit www.njwildfire.org.

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