The use of prescribed fire as a land-management tool has deep and ancient roots in South Carolina’s heritage.

Johnny Stowe, S.C. Department of Natural Resources chair of the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council and a certified wildlife biologist and forester, said properly conducted prescribed burns (also called “controlled burns”) have multiple benefits. Stowe is also a landowner who burns his own land.

Prescribed fires help restore and maintain vital habitat for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and other grassland birds, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Besides the many wildlife species that require fire-dependent habitat, many plants thrive only in regularly burned forests. The demise of the longleaf pine forest and associated grasslands, which once made South Carolina one of the best quail hunting states, is tightly correlated to the decrease of woods-burning.

Prescribed fire enhances public safety, according to Stowe, by reducing or even eliminating fuel loads, thereby making wildfire on that area impossible or unlikely for some time afterwards. And wildfires are usually less destructive on areas that have been prescribed burned. Wildfires often either lose intensity or go out when they reach areas that have been prescribed burned.

“Fire-maintained lands also have a special unique beauty,” Stowe said. “The open, park-like vistas of properly burned lands appeal to many of us.”

Stowe can be reached via email at StoweJ@dnr.sc.gov or by calling 803-419-9374 in Columbia. For more information on prescribed burning assistance, call the S.C. Forestry Commission office or visit the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council website at clemson.edu/extension/pfc/index.html.

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