Our annual Smokey Bear Day is on Monday October 8, 2018, 10am – 2pm at the Discovery Center.
The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission may conduct prescribed fires throughout the year as conditions to safely and effectively conduct such fires permit. The exact location, date and time of prescribed fires depends on weather and fuel conditions. Therefore, we con not provide a specific schedule for when prescribed fires will occur in a given area. If you would like to be notified the morning of a prescribed fire, please contact us at (518)456-0655 ext. 1250 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Before fire suppression all but eliminated wildland fire, at least 25,000 acres of the Albany Pine Bush supported a fire adapted and fire dependent plant community characterized by an open pitch pine canopy and an understory of native grasses, shrubs and wildflowers. This grassy shrubland supported large populations of scrub oaks (dwarf chestnut oak and bear oak), abundant other dwarf shrubs (huckleberry, blueberry, willows and cherries) and a variety of grasses and flowers more typical of mid-western prairies. Frequent low-intensity fires are critical to maintaining populations of these shade intolerant plants, including the wild blue lupine critical to the endangered Karner blue butterfly.
Throughout its history wildland fires occurred somewhere in the Pine Bush almost every year, with fire returning to a given spot once every 5-20 years. Some fires were initiated by lightning, others by the activities of local Native Americans, and later, by colonial settlers. Most of the Pine Bush plant species directly depend on periodic fires for their survival, and flourish following fire. These plants subsequently provide habitat for many unique, rare, declining and endangered animals.
Since 1935, there has been a strict national policy of wildland fire suppression. Absent fire, the pitch pine canopy begins to close and grassy openings are greatly reduced by an increased density of the scrub oak. In many cases, native species such as the blue lupine and butterfly milkweed are eliminated by weedy species such as locust and aspen which can quickly invade, and become dominant. With an increase in the density of the vegetation, the amount of flammable material also increases, creating hazardous fire conditions. Such conditions can lead to catastrophic wildfires that may threaten lives, property, and wildlife habitat. One such fire occurred in the early 1980′s which burned several hundred acres and damaged nearby power lines.
In 1988 the New York State Legislature created the Albany Pine Bush Commission, and charged it with the complicated task of coordinating the management of the remaining Pine Bush in Albany, Guilderland and Colonie. The Commission had a Fire Management Plan prepared and began actively using fire management in the Preserve.
There are many challenges to conducting prescribed fires in the Albany Pine Bush. Smoke management is a major concern since housing developments, nursing homes, an international airport, and many highways border Preserve lands.
Very small initial prescribed fires occurred in the spring of 1991. Such activities were made possible by special laws passed by the NYS legislature to permit burning in woodlands for ecological purposes. The first burns were research burns that have provided information useful for predicting fire behavior in the Albany Pine Bush on a larger scale.
Currently, highly trained Commission staff and volunteers, along with the assistance of partner agencies including the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, annually conduct prescribed fires in the Preserve. These fires simulate natural fire and reestablish fire as the primary ecological process that maintains this unique ecosystem.