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Treatments to reduce high levels of fuels on the Preserve may include chainsaw work, mechanical clearing, or prescribed fire. Mechanical clearing employs machinery such as tractors and masticators. Prescribed fire refers to a carefully planned intentional fire set under conditions where it can be safely controlled. Often prescribed fire is used just to reduce fuels. At the Pine Hill Preserve, it can accomplish both fuels reduction and fostering of the native plant community.
The prioritization of fuel treatment actions would include an evaluation of fire risk and fire hazards in the area. Fire risks take into account those factors that put human life and property at risk. These risks can range from sources of ignition like spark-producing equipment to the presence of homes and businesses in close proximity to flammable vegetation. Fire hazards are those factors that determine how a fire would burn, including available flammable materials, topography, and environmental conditions.
Hand and Mechanical Treatments
|In cases where prescribed fire cannot be used due to the risks to life and property, hand and mechanical clearing may be the only viable method to reduce the fuel load. This type of clearing is more labor intensive and expensive, but removes dangerous levels of vegetation without the risks associated with prescribed fire.
Hand treatment can involve construction of fuel breaks or reduction of the vegetation through the use of hand tools and chainsaws. Hand-stacked cut brush can subsequently be burned to reduce the total amount of fuel.
Mechanical treatment involves the use of
|heavy machinery. A caterpillar tractor with a blade can push the brush into piles that are later burned. This has dramatic effects on the vegetation and soils as root systems of shrubs are pulled up. At this Preserve, this method would only be considered if other methods of fuels reduction are not available.
Another method involves a tractor running over brush to crush it. This can be combined with subsequent burning in place. A masticator is a type of tractor with a cutting disc that can be maneuvered at the end of an arm. These machines reduce brush to chips and the chips are usually left in place, though the chips may inhibit plant germination. One issue that must be considered when using any heavy machinery is the effect it will have on the underlying vegetation, particularly the rare plant species the Preserve is intended to protect.
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