Save the Pine Bush

A program of controlled burning in the ecologically precarious Pine Bush went off without a hitch this fall, and managers of the preserve are aiming to do more. "We hope they will get bigger," said Stephanie Gebauer, director of the Albany Pine Bush Research and Management.

A total of 44 acres of the 1700 acre preserve was burned this spring and over the last couple of weeks, said Gebauer. The goal is to eventually burn about 200 acres each year.

Albany Deputy Fire Chief Warren Abriel confirmed the burns were kept under control and caused no property damage.

The Pine Bush-a patchwork area of scrubby pine (sic) and sandy soil on the western edge of the city that spills into adjacent towns- is home to Karner Blue butterfly, an endangered species. Gebauer said one reason for burning is to create more open space, which allows the wild blue lupine to grow. The lupine plant is the sole source of nourishment for the Karner Blue.

The burning this fall started Oct. 28, accounting for 30 of the total 44 acres burned. Fire-setting crews comprising a dozen or so volunteers used torches fueled by diesel gasoline mixture to ignite the fires, Gebauer said. Most of what was burned, she said, was ground cover- grass, pine needles and low growing plants.
Gebauer said burning aids the germination of some plants because it weakens their hard outer covering. [Pitch pine cones open during fires- ed.] Fire tends to "top kill" plant life, scorching the above-ground growth but leaving the roots intact.