Prescribed fire is an effective tool for the management of grassland and early successional upland habitats. In pre-colonial times, the Lenape tribes would use fire to reduce the abundance of dense vegetation to expose the soils for agriculture. Wildfires caused by lightning strikes would also be beneficial to upland forested habitats by clearing the forest understory, allowing fire-dependent tree species to release seeds and germinate in the open soils. With urban/suburban development suppressing naturally occurring fire activities, many grasslands and early successional forests became overgrown with dense vegetation, with most of that vegetation being. By using fire, along with herbicidal treatments of invasive species within the areas, habitats can be managed to encourage native vegetation growth, which is beneficial to native wildlife animal species. Fire and invasive plant management, however, is not a ‘one-off’ management technique. This type of habitat management can take several years of repeated treatments for successful habitat restoration.
At Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, we conduct prescribed fire burns in the late winter/early spring (mid-February – mid-March) prior to the green-up of vegetation. Conducting prescribed fire at this time is more effective since there is little moisture in the vegetation, which allows fire to burn more efficiently. Prescribed fires are conducted along the dikes around the Wildlife Drive, the upland fields across from Jen’s Trail, and the fields located at the former Forked River Game Farm in Lacey Township. The prescribed fire program also has the flexibility for expansion to other areas on the refuge on an as-needed basis, dependent upon habitat management actions and needs.