Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard announces that the National Park Service (NPS) will be conducting several prescribed burns at the battlefield this spring. The park’s Fire Management Plan and Environmental Assessment was approved in July 2004 and describes plans for wildland fire suppression, fire research, and prescribed fires for resource benefit.
Limited public closures will be required at the Burnside Bridge and adjacent parking area, the Sherrick Farm Trail, and the Pry Farm during the period of the burns. Signs will be posted at the Visitor’s Center and at each area during periods of closure. The project will start in the morning at the Burnside Bridge area in order to re-open that areas as soon as possible.
Prescribed fire was selected as an alternate management approach that can be used by the NPS in addition to traditional mechanical and herbicide treatments to control the growth of non-native invasive plants. Additionally, these burns will be a tool for managing vegetation cover in certain historic vistas, field areas and woodlots and used to reduce hazardous levels of dead and downed material, also known as fuel load.
Beginning in April, the NPS will target a day when conditions are suitable for these burns. The target prescription—temperatures 40 to 80 degrees, relative humidity of 30 to 70 percent, wind speeds of 3-11 mph, wind direction NNW to SSW, and fuel moisture for the smallest size of burning material at 5 to 10 percent – must be met before a burn is initiated. This burn would be the first used at Antietam since the approval of the Fire Management Plan and targets 15 acres in three separate areas.
The slopes overlooking Burnside Bridge are targeted for a restoration to a slope of grass and mixed hardwood trees. The goal of the burn in this area is to maintain the open character of the hillside to aid in historical understanding of the area, maintain the view of the bridge, and control undesirable plant species. A portion of the Sherrick Woods is targeted for control of understory invasive plants species and encouragement of native plant growth and the removal of dead material. Thirdly, the slope below the Philip Pry House (McClellan’s Headquarters) is included as the final project for the burn period. The goal at the Pry Farm is to open up the historic vista from the house to the main battlefield and maintain a slope of grasses with native trees on the lower slope just above Antietam Creek.
In accordance with National Park Service policy and procedures, the burns will be carried out by a qualified fire team. Firefighters from the battlefield and other national park areas within the National Capital Region will assist on the day of the burn. Engine support is expected from the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Company and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as well.
Posted by Tom Shay (from NPS Antietam website)
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