Maintaining the glades: Roaring River State Park joins Forest Service in prescribed burn

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Roaring River State Park staff members conducted a prescribed burn of 145 acres of land on March 7. The burn was held in conjunction with a prescribed fire initiated by the United States Forest Service off of Highway F south of the park. [Photo by Kerry Hays/Missouri State Parks]

On March 7, Roaring River State Park staff members joined U.S. Forest Service Mark Twain National Forest personnel in conducting a large prescribed burn along Chute Ridge, which is located off of Highway F south of the park.

"We only burned 145 acres, but the Forest Service's part was 260 acres," said Tim Smith, park naturalist. "It was a joint burn. We burnt our acres, and they burnt theirs, but it was cooperative."

The prescribed burn conducted inside Roaring River was a part of the park's long-term glade restoration and maintenance plan.

Photo by Kerry Hays/Missouri State Parks Roaring River State Park naturalist Tim Smith, pictured above, and other park staff members conducted a prescribed burn in the wilderness area outside the park on March 7. Prescribed burns are used to maintain the glade and woodland ecosystems around Roaring River

"Our goal for this prescribed burn was to reduce fuel loads and promote natural ecosystem restoration," said Smith.

The park's wild area is divided into three units, with a prescribed burn conducted in each unit every three to five years. Smaller units are mixed into the rotation as needed.

"We have a couple more units (of land) that we are trying to work in this spring," said Smith. "We will be conducting more prescribed burns if we can get the weather to cooperate."

The burn conducted on Mark Twain National Forest was designed to remove cedar slash, which is limbs and brush, left over after Forest Service personnel cleared cedar trees from the land in January of 2012.

Some areas of the Roaring River wild area that have been selected for prescribed burns later this year will also be used to remove cedar slash. Smith said the park staff will be working to clean up the remaining cedar slash in the wild area over the next few years.

In preparation for this month's burns, park staff members created burn lines around the unit that was selected for inclusion in the burn plan.

"Burn lines are used to ensure there are areas that the fire will not cross into," said Smith. "In addition to that, we made sure all of our equipment was up and running properly. We also had input into the burn plan completed by the Forest Service, but we didn't complete our own plan for this prescribed burn."

At one time, the entire White River Hills area, which is the area that serves as drainage land for the White River and includes the wild area surrounding Roaring River, offered glade and open woodland ecosystems.

Glade areas traditionally offer steep, rocky slopes and ridge tops. Woodland areas are categorized as having moderate slopes with good soil. Those areas offer trees that are well spaced and ground covers of grasses and wildflowers.

Roaring River staff began cutting eastern red cedars in the wild area in 2004. Staff members had removed all of the cedar trees from 21 portions of land in the park's wild area by the winter of 2010. Using fire to maintain the areas will help eliminate the need to cut invasive species of trees and shrubs from the area in the future.

Wild areas where cedar trees have been removed and other maintenance burns are conducted are located in remote areas throughout the park. Staff members must walk an hour and a half to reach some of the designated areas.

The Roaring River staff works under a 10-year stewardship plan that has been approved by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to glade restoration, the plan's objectives include: increasing awareness of the wild area; developing and maintaining trails; developing scenic views and viewing sheds; maintaining and increasing the biodiversity of the gene pool; maintaining water quality; protecting the biological integrity of exotic species; partnering with adjacent private and public land owners; and increasing and improving training for staff.

For more information on the wild area management plan or glade restoration, call 847-3742.

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