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Forest Fire Management

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Because severe fires are much more common in conifer than in hardwood forests, the "old-field" pine forests represented a significant fire danger. Concern by early conservationists over the apparent destructive impacts of fire on forest ecosystems led to a very successful national effort to reduce ignitions and enhance detection and control of both human-set and natural forest fires throughout much of the 20th century.

Over the past few decades, ecologists, foresters, and conservationists have reconsidered the wisdom of the all-out effort to eliminate fire from our landscape. Without the ongoing occurrence of fire and other human-induced disturbances the vegetation and landscape may change quite rapidly and populations of valued species that depend on the open conditions and specific structures created by fire may decline.

Although fire suppression, especially near dwellings, remains a major concern in many of our forest areas, we are beginning to use our knowledge of fire behavior under controlled conditions to manage some New England landscape purposefully with fire.