Prescribed Burn for Falkner Island

This spring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Northeast Regional Fire Program will begin prescribed fire procedures in New England. The southern half of Falkner Island, a part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), is scheduled to be treated during the month of April 2019. Falkner Island is located in Long Island Sound three nautical miles off the coast of Guilford, CT. The purpose of this prescribed fire is to modify habitat to support conservation efforts for the 6,000 common terns and the 70 federally endangered roseate terns that nest on the island. Up to 5 acres of the island will be treated, south of the lighthouse. Refuge Manager Rick Potvin says “the ability to use fire to modify the habitat is critical in the management of the largest common tern colony and only roseate tern colony in the state of Connecticut.” This prescribed burn will be accomplished by a group of trained wildland firefighters from the Service’s Fire Program. Although controlled burns are planned to occur under a tight set of prescribed conditions which minimize impacts to wildlife and the public, there will be visible smoke from the island that may cause the public to report the event to authorities.

The Refuge has notified municipal Fire and Police Departments with views of Falkner Island, as well as other authorities including the United States Coast Guard and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, of the proposed date of the burn. Additionally, the Refuge will also contact the same municipalities and organizations the morning of the burn.

The Service has requested that municipalities having reverse 911 messaging systems share this information with their town citizens to reassure them that smoke they may witness as part of this prescribed fire is a planned event. This may also decrease the number of citizens calling to report smoke emanating from the island. For more information on Fire Management on National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast, visit:

The exact date of the burn depends the correct weather conditions and proper fine fuel moistures. If this burn cannot be executed this spring, we may attempt another burn in the spring 2020.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit