My recent posts have been about Gettysburg NMP’s 2014 goals. We have already looked at: addressing challenges at Little Round Top; the rehabilitation of North Cemetery Ridge; and a cultural landscape report for the first day’s battlefield. This week we’ll look at the fourth and final goal: a fire management plan for the park.
The park has identified the use of prescribed fire as a viable management technique to help maintain historically open fields of the Gettysburg battlefield landscapes, an important goal of our General Management Plan. In May the park will gather public comments for an environmental assessment for a fire management plan for Gettysburg NMP and Eisenhower National Historic
Site. As one step in the planning process, the first prescribed fire ever at Gettysburg NMP took place October 30, 2013. NPS fire specialists burned 13 acres of fields on the historic Snyder farm, in the southern portion of the battlefield.
The overall objectives for using prescribed fire are:
- to maintain the conditions of the battlefield as experienced by the soldiers who fought here;
- perpetuate the open space character of the landscape; maintain wildlife habitat;
- control invasive exotic species;
- reduce shrub and woody species components;
- provide for public and employee safety.
We completed the fire test last fall, immediately before shrub and woody species move into dormancy, in order to reduce the plants’ energy reserves and diminish vigor and growth potential for the following spring.
Spring has only just arrived at Gettysburg – barely! Snow was falling just a few days ago. NPS specialists will soon be checking the test fire site to determine the effects of the fire on woody vegetation in
the open fields.
Use of prescribed fires would reduce herbicide use and impacts in the park. Success factors include ease of implementation, effectiveness towards meeting resource objectives, degree of impact on visitation, and cost effectiveness.
The 2001 Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy directs agencies to continue to “implement ecosystem based fire management programs to accomplish resource or landscape management objectives when consistent with land management objectives.”
On April 3 at the Gettysburg NMP Advisory Commission meeting one of the updates will be about the fire management plan. When the plan is available for review in May it will be online at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/GETT
Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, March 20, 2014