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 invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

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. By using fire, along with herbicidal treatments of invasive species within the prescribed burn prescribed burn
A prescribed burn is the controlled use of fire to restore wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire risk, or achieve other habitat management goals. We have been using prescribed burn techniques to improve species habitat since the 1930s.

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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.

A prescribed fire burns through the marshes of West Pool, as seen from the Gull Pond Observation Tower.


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.


Smoke from a prescribed fire enters the sky.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages fire safely and cost-effectively to improve the condition of lands while reducing the risk of damaging wildfires to surrounding communities. This balanced approach to fire management benefits people and wildlife.


Sea lavender (Limonium carolinianum) growing on the salt marsh.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 48,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats. More than 82 percent of Forsythe refuge is wetlands, of which 78 percent is salt marsh, interspersed with shallow coves and bays. The refuge’s location in one of the Atlantic Flyway’...