Why parts of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge are being set on fire
About 9% of Prime Hook National Refuge will be on fire at some point over the next week or so.
Almost 900 acres of the more than 10,000-acre refuge, east of Milton, will undergo a prescribed burn as part of the refuge's habitat management plan. The fire will rid the land and waterways of invasive plant species while improving them for native species.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-managed refuge will remain open to the public during the burns, though some areas may be inaccessible. Only about 40% of the refuge is open to the public normally.
A marshy area north of refuge headquarters was burned on Monday. The grassy areas surrounding headquarters, on Turkle Pond Road, are next. The burns depend heavily on weather conditions, including rain and wind.
Prescribed burns, when conducted every three to five years, help reduce the buildup of dead vegetation, aid other herbaceous plants in competing with grasses and increase nutrient availability, according to officials. They also help keep invasive or undesirable plants, such as phragmites, Johnson grass and fescue under control.
According to refuge manager Arthur Coppola, species that will benefit from the burns include bobwhite quail, songbirds such as field sparrows, indigo buntings and eastern meadowlarks, and raptors such as American kestrels and northern harriers.