Don't be too surprised to see smoke in the forest this fall.
The Shawnee National Forest has planned 32 prescribed burns on about 5,000 to 10,000 acres in the next fiscal year that began Oct. 1, according to a release from the Forest Service.
The burns were to begin in October and continue through April 2013.
The Forest Service performs the burns during spring and early fall when fires can be more easily managed.
The goals are to maintain oaks and hickories, viewed by the Forest Service as an integral part of forest cover. Fire is intended to create openings oak and hickory seedlings need to gain access to light and to keep shade tolerant beaches and maples from replacing the oak/hickory stands.
The Forest Service also uses fire to maintain openlands, perpetuating prairie and savannah remnant plant communities preferred by Henslow's sparrows and loggerhead shrike. The goal is to increase the biodiversity of plant and animal species.
A third goal of prescribed burning is to decrease wildfire hazard and damage, as prescribed fire reduces debris collected on the forest floor. Burning away the debris under controlled conditions reduces the intensity and damage of wildfires.
To learn more about prescribed burning on the Shawnee, the Forest Service invites calls to Scott Crist or Forest Paukert, located at the Supervisor's Office in Harrisburg, at (618) 253-7114.