Next Week: Conference Will Consider Role of Fire in the Pine Barrens

Conducting a prescribed burn at the New York Wildfire & Incident Management Academy in the fall of 2015.
Conducting a prescribed burn at the New York Wildfire & Incident Management Academy in the fall of 2015.

“Keeping the Pine in the Pine Barrens” is the theme of a fire management workshop at Brookhaven National Laboratory next Wednesday and Thursday.

The conference — which kicks off with a lecture on “Fire Management in the Wildland Urban Interface” on May 3 at 7 p.m., continues on May 4 with panel discussions and a visit to areas of the pine barrens that have recently been affected by fire.

“We hope to at least attract volunteer firefighters and fire service organizations, and members of the general public are welcome,” said John Pavacic, the executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, who helped organize the conference. “We are hoping to raise awareness of the need for prescribed fire as well, and the role it plays in ecological restoration and reducing the fuel that helps fuel wildfires.”

Long Island’s pine barrens are a globally rare ecosystem that is dependent on fire, which helps to maintain habitats for unique and rare flora and fauna.

Today, these natural communities have been altered by development, fire suppression, safety efforts, and emerging threats such as the southern pine beetle.

According to the announcement of the conference, “the exclusion of fire is problematic because fire, when safely implemented, can be a cost-effective tool to reduce fuel hazards around homes and businesses while also helping to restore critical and natural ecosystem processes.”

This event is a joint effort of the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange, the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The May 3 opening program, Fire Management in the Wildland Urban Interface, is presented by three regional fire management experts. The May 4 program includes panel presentations on “Restoring Pine in the Pine Barrens” and “Fuel Hazard Reduction and the Southern Pine Beetle,” presented by regional researchers and land managers in the Northeast as well as USDA Forest Service professionals.

The day concludes with afternoon field trips to examine and discuss firsthand the benefits of prescribed fire within local controlled burn units and forest health demonstration sites. 

The event will be held at Brookhaven National Laboratory and is open to the public for a $10 fee for the May 4 program. The May 3 evening talk is free of charge. For more information or to register (registration is required for both days), visit http://tiny.cc/KeepingPineinPineBarrens.

“I’m hoping people will come away with a better appreciation of the role of fire in the pine barrens, the need to help preserve, sustain and maintain our native pitch pine as a major component of the forest, what we need to do in terms of managing, and how folks can help support those efforts and cooperative goals for managing this ecosystem,” said Mr. Pavacic.

A full schedule for the conference is online here.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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