Kentucky Fish and Wildlife plans prescribed burns on nearly 2,100 acres of public lands

Published 11:30 am Monday, October 23, 2023

Kentucky Lantern

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has announced plans for controlled burns on portions of five Kentucky public land areas “to improve forest and grassland health and enhance habitats preferred by native wildlife.”

According to a news release, Fish and Wildlife officials and partnering agencies are scheduling prescribed burns on 2,096 total acres of the Clay, Grayson Lake and Paul Van Booven wildlife management areas (WMA) in Eastern Kentucky, as well as Taylorsville Lake and Green River Lake WMAs in Central Kentucky as part of ongoing hardwood forest improvement projects.

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Here is the rest of the news release: These portions of the WMAs will be closed to the public during the prescribed burns and reopen after active fire is no longer present.

The burns will be conducted on weekdays between now and January when burning conditions are optimal from both environmental and safety standpoints. Exact dates will depend on weather and site factors.

Managers will take into consideration wind, air temperature, relative humidity, soil moisture and other factors before determining when to conduct the burns. Staff receive extensive training in planning and conducting prescribed burns and have specialized equipment to safely achieve the desired results.

Signs will be posted to provide guidance about the locations of the prescribed burns and areas that are closed to the public. Updates will be posted on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website (fw.ky.gov) and Twitter (@kyfishwildlife) when the dates are set.

Burns are planned for four units of Clay WMA, totaling 960 acres primarily in Nicholas County, in October or November. The timing of burns on this WMA will avoid fall quota hunts there, as well as a planned fall aerial spraying project being conducted to control non-native, invasive shrubs that have become predominant on many sites and are adversely affecting wildlife habitat conditions. Public access to the remainder of the 8,980-acre WMA should not be impacted.

At Grayson Lake WMA, the burn will focus on one unit with 231 acres in Carter County in November or December. Burn timing for this WMA will also avoid fall quota hunts on this property, and public access to the remainder of the 8,026-acre WMA should not be impacted.

On the Paul Van Booven WMA, an 80-acre portion of the property encompassing the native warm season grass fields in Breathitt County will have a burn in late October or mid-November, scheduled to minimize impacts to hunting seasons this fall. Public access to the remainder of the 2,287-acre WMA should not be impacted.

The Taylorsville Lake WMA burn will be conducted on two units comprising 800 acres of the Briar Ridge section of the WMA in Spencer County. Burn timing for this WMA will take place late-October to mid-November and will also avoid fall quota hunts. The Briar Ridge section of the WMA, including the rifle range, will not be accessible via KY 3228 during prescribed burning activities. Other public access to Taylorsville Lake and the remainder of the 9,419-acre WMA should not be affected.

At Green River Lake WMA, the smallest planned burn will focus on only 25 acres in Taylor County in late October or mid-November. Burn timing for this WMA will also avoid impact to quota hunts this fall, and public access to the remainder of the 21,021-acre WMA should not be impacted.

Coordination with local authorities ensures the safety of staff and the surrounding communities. Adjacent landowners are also being notified of the planned burns, and the areas will be monitored until all fire, embers and smoke are extinguished.

Prescribed fire is an efficient tool for habitat management. The management goals of the burns are to increase production of nuts and soft fruits and to enhance the regeneration of oaks. Burning sets back woody plant growth in fields and along edges, creates desirable open spaces on the ground’s surface by removing leaf litter, improves native grass and wildflower composition within fields and helps control invasive plants.

Officials have a narrow window of time to conduct the fall burns to achieve the desired results. Autumn is an optimal time for using fire to eradicate undesirable tree and shrub species, and to promote regeneration and growth of nut-producing trees such as oak and hickory.

For more information about prescribed burning, visit kyfire.org.