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Fire? What Fire?

Pine Bush Better Than Ever

By Daniel Van Riper

The April 27 wildfire in the State and City Pine Bush Preserves along the Thruway and Rt. 155 left 65 acres stripped of vegetation, with only brown and black Pitch Pine trees rising from the apparently lifeless black charcoal and white ash covering the ground. For the first time in more than 30 years the outline of the Pine Bush dunescape was easy to discern. Today, in July, except for the absence of tangled brush that is choking the ecosystem in so many parts of the Pine Bush, evidence of the fire is hard to find.

By the middle of May, ferns led the way, uncoiling everywhere you looked. Here and there shoots were popping up, and spiders were beginning to colonize the edges of the burn area. By mid June, flowers, blueberries, and even blue lupine plants nestled between the fully blooming ferns. Almost all the pitch pines, which to the casual observer appeared quite dead for the past six weeks, were sprouting green bunches of needles. And, astonishingly, we saw several Karner Blue Butterflies in the City Preserve, a place that has not seen either blue lupine or butterflies for a decade.

The wildfire was caused by a small controlled burn set by the Pine Bush Commission that got out of control. Understandably, local municipalities are concerned about fire management procedures, and there has been some suggestion that manual techniques to remove brush should replace controlled burns. Clearly, periodic fires are the best way to manage the ecosystem. We strongly encourage the Commission and local governments to aggressively set controlled burns over as much acreage of Pine Bush as possible before the end of the year.

published July/August 1999 Newsletter
Last Updated 7/18/99


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