Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131

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News Release

February 18, 2011

Prescribed Burn of 5300 acres Planned for Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service plans to prescribed burn 5,300 acres on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge as soon as environmental conditions will allow. The main objectives of these controlled burns are to reduce the amount of plant material available to burn during an uncontrolled wildfire and to improve wildlife habitat. Since the rainy weather pattern and cold temperatures are moderating, hopes are to accomplish the prescribed burns soon, possibly as early as next week

The main focus is on burning the area east of US Highway 264 between Point Peter Road and the firebreak directly to the north of Stumpy Point Village. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Fire Management Officer Tom Crews asserts, “We have attempted to burn this area before, but it has always been too wet or too dry. These units require a rare combination of dryness and wind direction that will allow us to better control smoke and fire intensity so we meet our goals for improving habitat and reducing wildfire risk. So far, conditions are looking favorable for burning this season.”

Controlled or prescribed burns are fires intentionally ignited under specific conditions to achieve management objectives. This year, Alligator River has received only enough fire funding to prescribed burn the high priority units in the North Stumpy Point Compartment. Refuge Manager Mike Bryant commented, "All the programs in the National Wildlife Refuge System, like other federal and most State agencies, are having to do some 'belt-tightening'. It's simply the way it is in this economic climate. We have to prioritize and produce the most good we can for the dollars we have."

The unique pocosin and coastal marsh habitat on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge thrives under periodic fire. Plants gain a nutrient boost from the ash, and greater plant diversity is possible when thick mats of grass and other plant debris no longer shade sprouting seeds. Fire actually enhances wildlife habitat by providing a mix of conditions to provide food and shelter. Another key benefit of fire is it reduces “fuels” – the leaves and dead plant debris that build up over time. If these fuels were not reduced periodically, wildfires could become hot and destructive, threatening both wildlife habitat and communities surrounding the refuge.

When smoke is seen, motorists are asked to reduce speed, be patient, and watch for fire equipment or firefighters along roads. Impacts to the visiting public are expected to be minimal, but visitors may call ahead to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge office if they have any concerns. Questions or comments on the prescribed burns at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge may be directed to Kelley Van Druten at 252-473-1131 extension 235, or kelley_vandruten@fws.gov.

Helicopter flying over USFWS trucksUsing truck
A variety of equipment will be used during the North Stumpy Point prescribed burn at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge including engines, tracked equipment and helicopters. Photo Credit: USFWS.