Prescribed Burn Promotes Growth


Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - David Dycus

POPE COUNTY, Ill. - The U.S. Forest Service set 1,000 acres of Shawnee National Forest on fire Wednesday afternoon during a prescribed burn. There have already been 12 this year, but this one was by far the biggest.

It took 24 people and a whole lot of fuel to get the fire going in the One Horse Gap area. It's near the Hardin/Pope County line in Illinois and about three miles off of Dutton Chapel Road. The burn boss on site says their goal had nothing to do with destruction. Instead, they were trying to promote a very specific kind of growth.

Fuel Specialist Scott Crist said the fallout from the flames will actually make life better for the animals that call Shawnee National Forest home. "We're doing it to improve the wildlife habitat and reintroduce fire into the ecosystem," he said. 

Their goal is to burn low-growing shrubs that block light from reaching the forest floor. That way, oak and hickory trees, and the animals who rely on them for food, will get a chance to thrive. Crist said, "An acorn lasts longer through the winter than the soft seeds of a maple. Those are not hard. They decompose quickly. It's a good winter food source for wildlife having the oak and hickory here."

Crist says the forest has been pretty moist so far this year, so Wednesday's burn will probably be the largest and one of the last.