Personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with West Virginia Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, and local volunteer fire departments are scheduled to conduct a series of controlled burns on Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge (CVNWR) lands.
Depending on weather conditions and available personnel, a fall burn is planned for the refuge on or about Friday, October 19 through Monday, November 19. Residents and visitors to the Beall, Cortland and Timberline Road areas may see or smell smoke periodically during this time. The burns will occur on several units located south of the Beall Parking lot, east of Cortland Road and north of Timberline Road. Expert fire teams will burn to reduce hazardous fuels and remove dead biomass for future vegetation and habitat management, as well as to facilitate control of non-native plants, and restore important wildlife habitat. An old field/shrub area will be burned to manage the habitat to benefit a greater diversity of plant species. Grassland areas will also be burned to control woody plants and maintain the fields in grassland habitat. The fire team will only burn under favorable weather conditions to keep the fire manageable and minimize smoke in local communities. Because burning is weather-dependent, it is difficult to provide significant advanced notice of the timing of each burn. However, appropriate State and County agencies will be notified ahead of each burn.
Because human safety is the number one priority during controlled burning, some refuge roads and trails may be closed to the public. Visitors are encouraged to check with the refuge for possible closures (see contact information above).
One of the reasons the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses controlled burns are to reduce flammable vegetation that could pose hazards to visitors and local communities if they burned in an uncontrolled wildfire. Controlled burns do much more than making the refuge safer. Controlled burning is an appropriate and effective tool to manage wildlife habitat: Research indicates that controlled burning has many benefits over other habitat management practices. Fire helps control undesirable exotic plants, maintains grassland habitat for nesting birds and small mammals, promotes wild flowers and other native plants, reduces the accumulation of organic debris and releases nutrients back into the soil.
Controlled burns are authorized under Canaan Valley NWR’s Prescribed Fire Plan, Habitat Management Plan (HMP) and Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). The CCP went through extensive NEPA review and was approved in 2011. The HMP was completed and approved in 2017 and the Prescribed Fire Plan was updated and approved in August of 2018.
For additional information regarding Canaan Valley NWR please visit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/canaan_valley/