Massachusetts wildlife officials set record number of controlled burns


BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts wildlife officials have carried out a record number of controlled burns in the state this year.

During 2019, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said it conducted 14 prescribed burns on more than 761 acres of state land and 115 acres of municipal land.

The burns benefit a range of plants and wildlife and help restore important grasslands, heathlands, shrublands, and woodlands, officials said. All the burns were conducted on lands open to the public.

Among the areas treated with controlled burns were the ridge top heathlands of Leyden, the pine and oak barrens of Montague Plains, and the grasslands of Southwick.

Burns were also used to help restore native warm-season grasslands at Herman Covey Wildlife Management Area in Belchertown, and at Muddy Brook in Hardwick to improve oak and hickory regeneration and enhance habitat for wildlife and plants.

Prescribed burns can also help improve the environment for wildlife.

Wildlife officials say burns in pine-oak barrens, woodlands, and heaths improve habitat for ruffed grouse, wild turkey, American woodcock, white-tailed deer and rare and declining species such as whip-poor-will, northern harrier, and eastern meadowlark.

Prescribed burns also help reduce the chance of unplanned wildfires.