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Prescribed burn to bring new life to Southwick wildlife management area

SOUTHWICK – Spearheaded by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, a prescribed burn took place at the wildlife management area on South Longyard Road on Tuesday.

The prescribed burn is seen in full force at the wildlife life management area earlier in the day on Tuesday. (Photo from Russ Anderson)

The main focus of prescribed burns on wildlife management areas in Massachusetts, which occurr every two or three years,  is to improve and maintain the wildlife habitat. According to Caren Caljouw, the prescribed fire manager for Mass Wildlife, they’ve been in the process of restoring the grassland at the wildlife management area on South Longyard Road. The grassland is a primary habitat for many birds, grasshopper sparrows and meadowlarks.

“Once this burns, it’ll green up really quickly,” said Caljouw.

Caljouw said that there are other areas that they leave untouched in order to allow the birds to perch there. Caljouw added that the prescribed burn also benefits wildlife like turkeys and pheasants that reside in the area.

Caljouw added that the burn doesn’t just benefit the wildlife.

“Not only does it restore the grasses, a lot of the native wildflowers actually just pop up right after burning,” said Caljouw.

Of the roughly 265 acres of the wildlife management area, the prescribed burn took care of about 130 acres on Tuesday.

Due to the smoke that floats through the air during the day of the prescribed burn, people that live near the wildlife management area may be concerned, but state officials want to assure them that it’s under control and a positive for the community.

“We appreciate their patience, because fire really is an important management tool,” said Caljouw.

Prior to the prescribed burn taking place, state officials conduct a weather reading to ensure it’s safe to perform the prescribed burn.

Crew members are seen lighting the fire at the wildlife management area on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

Southwick Fire Chief Russ Anderson discussed the positive impact the prescribed burn has on the fire department and the town.

“This actually reduces the fire chance for us,” said Anderson. “This land is used a lot for recreation. Should something happen out there, this increases our ability to control it.”

Caljouw said that a mixture of gasoline and diesel fuel is used.

Prior to the prescribed burn occurring on Tuesday, Fisheries and Wildlife announced that limited portions of the wildlife management area would be temporarily closed and the public was asked to avoid walking towards the burn areas that were posted near the parking lot of the wildlife management area.

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