Controlled burn in an oak-hickory forest at the Sideling Hill Creek preserve, the first burn conducted at this location.
Good Fire Controlled burn in an oak-hickory forest at the Sideling Hill Creek preserve, the first burn conducted at this location. © Gabriel Cahalan / TNC

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Controlled Burn Planned for Sideling Hill Creek Preserve on Thursday, November 21

The Nature Conservancy to host viewing station at Oak Barrel Café in Little Orleans, MD

Cumberland, MD

The Nature Conservancy has announced that it is planning to conduct a controlled burn on its Sideling Hill Creek preserve in Little Orleans, Maryland on Thursday, November 21 if weather conditions permit.  Updates on the status of the burn will be continually available at  www.nature.org/mdfire.

To give local residents and visitors a better look at this critically important conservation practice, TNC has also announced it will host a viewing station at the Oak Barrel Café located directly opposite the burn at 35206 National Pike NE in Little Orleans, MD 21766 starting at 10:00 am.  Staff will be on hand to talk to the public about how and why the burn is being executed, as well as provide complimentary sandwiches, coffee and refreshments for anyone who comes to watch.

The burn will be conducted by staff from TNC in partnership with MD DNR Forest Service, MD DNR Heritage, the US Forest Service and others.  Smoke may be visible from Interstate 68 and the surrounding area, so local neighbors will be alerted in advance and signs will placed along roadways to inform motorists.

Controlled burns for forest and wildlife habitat management are always conducted with safety as the top priority.  Burn staff are trained practitioners who monitor the weather leading up to and during a burn to ensure the fire remains at the desired intensity and smoke is carried up and away from roads and homes.  If the required conditions for temperature, humidity, moisture levels, cloud cover, and wind are not met or they unexpectedly change, the burn will be postponed

Foresters and ecologists recognize that fire is a critical ecological process for many environments, including the typical Appalachian forests of oaks, hickories and pines that cover most of western Maryland.  Since the 1930’s however, a lack of fire has unintentionally harmed forest health. 

The controlled burn at Sideling Hill Creek is being conducted to help a variety of fire-adapted native tree and plant species, including Table Mountain pine (which needs fire to regenerate), pitch pine, oak trees, blueberries, huckleberries, and many native wildflowers.  Many of these species are also drought tolerant, making them better equipped to thrive in changing weather conditions or a warming climate.

As an additional benefit, controlled burns help remove the buildup of dry wood and organic matter on the forest floor, which then reduces the chances of dangerous wildfires and their severity if they happen.  This also results in more open, spaced out forests that make it harder for destructive pests like pine beetles to kill trees across a massive range.

Research suggests that fire reduces tick populations, including the Lyme disease-carrying deer tick.  One such study measuring tick populations and the presence of Lyme is currently being conducted on the Sideling Hill Creek burn sites by Frostburg University professor Rebekah Taylor.

Anyone interested in learning more or attending the viewing can find updates on burn scheduling at www.nature.org/mdfire or by following TNC on Twitter and Facebook.  Live videos and photos of the burn will also be made available on social media to anyone interested in tuning in virtually.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.