Fire has always been a powerful force in Pennsylvania’s forests, and with the recent work of Nature Conservancy scientists, prescribed fire is now an important land management tool used across the state to reduce the risk of wildfires, manage habitats and protect rare ecological communities.
“Our oak and southern pine species found in Pennsylvania and throughout the Appalachian Mountains evolved with periodic fires,” said Todd Sampsell, director of conservation operations for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania.
“This natural disturbance is important for seed germination and stimulation of new growth. Additionally, rare disturbance-dependent natural communities like barrens and grasslands are found scattered throughout the Appalachians from Maine to Georgia and benefit from regular burning,” he said. “As we continue to aggressively suppress all wildfires, we have seen a steady decline in forest health and a loss of these rare species and natural communities.”
To learn more about this important piece of Pennsylvania’s history, conservation professionals, wildlife enthusiasts, forest managers, and government officials are invited to Fire in the Eastern United States, a symposium featuring Professor Stephen J. Pyne of Arizona State University who is one of the world’s leading experts in fire history and ecology. Sponsored by the Penn State Environmental Law Review, this interdisciplinary event will focus on formulation of fire policy in the Eastern United States. The public is welcome.
“We expect the symposium to inform policy makers and land managers—those responsible for forests and ecology—on a wide range of issues that impact fire policy east of the Mississippi. An example of that would be a discussion on the reintroduction of low intensity fires to the landscape in this part of the country," said Samuel Wiest ’10, symposium editor of the Penn State Environmental Law Review.
Professor Pyne will deliver the keynote address at 7:00 p.m. A former member of the fire crew in Grand Canyon National Park, Pyne is a member of the Wildlife Advisory Group for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the author of more than a dozen books on fire and its history.
“Fire and humanity have become inseparable and indispensable. Together they have repeatedly remade the earth,” he wrote in his 1995 work World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth.
Other panelists include:
The event begins at 1:00 p.m., Thursday, April 1, in the Greg Sutliff Auditorium of Lewis Katz Building and will be simulcast to Penn State Law facilities at 333 West South Street in Carlisle, PA. For more information, please visit: www.law.psu.edu.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.