The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, plans to conduct controlled burns between Feb. 15 and May 15 on about 27,200 acres of National Forest lands located in Chattooga,
Fannin, Gordon, Greene, Habersham, Jasper, Jones, Lumpkin, Murray,
Oglethorpe, Putnam, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, and Walker counties in
Georgia.

Controlled burns are a tool the Forest Service uses to reduce heavy fuel
loads of overgrown vegetation, to protect nearby homes from uncontrolled
wildfire and to enhance wildlife habitat and the overall health of the
forest.

Certain environmental conditions must be met before the Forest Service can
conduct controlled burns. Months of planning are involved and weather
conditions must be right before the controlled burns can occur. Forest
Service specialists look at factors such as wind direction, wind speed,
temperature, humidity and ground moisture.

Controlled burns will only be conducted when the correct weather
indices are obtained. The controlled burn plan ensures all precautions are
taken to manage the fire safely.

Partner agencies which will be helping conduct these controlled burns
include the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Natural
Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local Volunteer Fire
Departments.

Fire has a long history of transforming landscapes by influencing
vegetation. As time went on and human populations began to increase, fires
began to be seen by the public as destructive and state and federal
agencies were created to promote fire suppression. Over time, this
exclusion of fire has led to a dramatic change in our forests.

Land managers now recognize that fire used in controlled situations can
promote healthy natural systems. A series of low intensity fires can thin
crowded forests, resulting in less severe disease and pest outbreaks. Fire
promotes native grasses and wildflowers and helps to regenerate oaks,
which in turn increases wildlife populations. Controlled burns also
reduce leaf litter and woody fuels that increase wildfire intensity. 
 
Most of todays forests have a dense understory, less plant diversity, and
are composed largely of fire intolerant tree species. The controlled use
of fire, under the direction of skilled resource managers, promotes
wildlife diversity and healthy forests.