(KDKZ-TV) Preparations are underway for Ozark National Scenic Riverways to accomplish several prescribed burns this spring. Prescribed burning provides a variety of benefits to native species and habitats, and helps reduce the threat of devastating wildfires. The burns will be carefully planned and monitored by the park’s Fire Management staff and will occur between early February and mid-April. The scheduling of these prescribed burns is dependent on weather and vegetation meeting certain conditions. During prescribed burns, park operations will continue as usual, although temporary closure of trails or roads adjacent to the burn unit may be necessary for visitor safety.
Several prescribed burns planned at Ozark Riverways in 2018 will be cooperative efforts with other land management agencies. The Stegall Mountain prescribed burn unit is 5,350 acres and encompasses portions of Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Peck Ranch, and Rocky Creek Conservation area. This burn will be conducted in partnership with Missouri Department of Conservation and The Nature Conservancy. The Jerktail Mountain prescribed burn unit is 1,850 acres and is located southeast of Jerktail Landing in northern Shannon County. This burn will be conducted jointly with the L.A.D. Foundation and Pioneer Forest. Because of the size of these units, they will likely be conducted in smaller segments over several days, as weather allows. In addition, the National Park Service plans to burn the 304-acre Sweezie Hollow unit near Big Spring, south of Van Buren. Part of the Sweezie Hollow unit was burned in 2017, but due to unfavorable weather conditions the entire unit was not completed as planned. The remainder of the Sweezie Hollow unit will be burned this year if conditions allow.
In order to ensure the safety of firefighters and the public, foot and vehicle travel in or near the prescribed fire operations may be temporarily restricted. Firefighters plan to conduct prescribed burns during weather conditions that will allow for smoke to disperse without causing negative impacts. However, smoke may impair visibility in the vicinity of the prescribed burn and could linger low in the atmosphere over a broad geographic area. Individuals with respiratory ailments are encouraged to take extra precautions to avoid exposure to smoke. Anyone who is concerned about the potential impacts of smoke from a prescribed burn can request to be added to the park’s notification list in order to be contacted in advance.
Prescribed burning has a variety of purposes, including the reduction of fuel accumulations near developed areas, which helps reduce the threat of unplanned wildland fires in and around Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Prescribed fire benefits native plants and animals in a variety of ways. Deer, turkeys, collared lizards and other species benefit from the use of fire to maintain or improve the habitat they depend on. Native habitats such as glades, savannas, and woodlands can suffer from woody overgrowth in the absence of fire.