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Open Space Committee Likes Prescribed Burns For Grasslands

A video still of the January 12 prescribed burn at the John Clyde Memorial Native Grasslands.

There may be more prescribed burns in the future for the township’s preserved grassland sites.

A January 12 burn at John Clyde Memorial Native Grasslands apparently went so well that the township’s Open Space Advisory Committee will recommend more.

Prescribed burns are conducted for a number of reasons, including removing scrub brush and limbs that could help fuel a wildfire, encouraging the growth of new native vegetation while removing some invasive species, and preserving wildlife habitats.

The township has two native grassland preserves, John Clyde Memorial and the Negri-Nepote Native Grassland Preserve.

The January 12 burn had originally been requested in 2019, following state legislation that allowed the New Jersey Forest Fire Service to conduct the burns at no cost, Tara Kenyon, the township’s open space consultant, told the Committee at its January 19 meeting.

But an extended out-of-state trip by a key person in the approval chain and problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic led to a delay, she said.

The burn was scheduled to happen between January 6 and April 15, Kenyon said. But the weather cooperated and she received teh call that the burn would occur on January 12, she said.

“It was very strategic, it was not a blazing fire,” she said. “It was very well planned out. They had emergency response right there.”

Kenyon said the only problem was a small area where invasive species were resistant to fire.

“We’ll have to work with the Department of Public Works to cut them at a certain height, and spot treat them right there,” she said.

Kenyon said about 68 of the 88 acres proposed for the burn were set afire.

“They may come back another day and try to finish up that other field if they can,” she said.

“This is the best option for grasslands management,” Kenyon said. “It costs us nothing, and they do all the preparation.”

Committee chairman Bob Puskas said he was impressed with how the burn was conducted.

“It was quite impressive with the equipment they had and making sure everything was done the right way,” he said.

Kenyon said no one complained about the burn. “We had people come out and watch it,” she said.

“I think it’s definitely worth doing it from every perspective,” she said. “Cost-wise, environment-wise, ecology-wise, it’s really the best practice.”

Puskas said the recommendation for another prescribed burn should be put on the Committee’s next agenda.

“I think it’s a great tool,” he said.

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