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Park Commission to Conduct Prescribed Burning at Mercer Meadows

HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP -- The Mercer County Park Commission has initiated a prescribed burn plan for Mercer Meadows with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS). The NJFFS worked in collaboration with the Park Commission’s Stewardship Department to develop a plan tailored to suit the ecological needs of the Pole Farm.

In 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy signed The Prescribed Burn Act, which expanded acceptable uses of prescribed fire from reducing traditional hazard fuels to recognizing the benefits of habitat management as well as other forestry and ecological needs. This legislation also made the services of the NJFFS more accessible to local governments.

Properly conducted prescribed burns encourage native seed germination, reduce invasive plant pressure, and cycle nutrients into the soil. These effects all aid in increasing habitat quality and diversity, while promoting forest regeneration and grassland establishment. The Park Commission anticipates the burn to have additional benefits including reducing hazardous fuel loads to prevent unplanned and potentially damaging wildfires. Prescribed burns have also been successful in reducing tick and insect pest populations.

While a prescribed burn is a new tactic for Mercer Meadows, land managers throughout the State have been using this management tool for its ecological benefits and to reduce the chance of forest fires. Approximately 35,000 acres were designated to be burned in New Jersey by the NJFFS in 2019 alone.

The prescribed burns at the Pole Farm are expected to take place between now and late spring as determined by the Section Forest Fire Warden. There will be two areas receiving a dormant season burn, prior to April 15. These burns will occur over two-to-four-day period. One area will undergo a growing-season burn later this spring, prior to June 15. This burn will take place over a one-to-two-day period. The Section Warden will determine when the conditions fall within safe range and will notify the Park Commission and appropriate township and emergency response officials with 48 hours’ notice before the burn will begin. The park will be closed to the public during the burns. The closure will be posted at all entrances, crossings and trail heads, as well as on the Park Commission website and social media pages.

The fire will be lit, monitored and managed by the Forest Fire Service officials who have undergone rigorous training and are experienced in conducting safe and effective prescribed burns. All appropriate safety measures and precautions will be taken by those performing the burn, including having a contingency plan. While the burn is in progress and until the Section Warden has deemed the fire out, there will be law enforcement and fire personnel, equipment and vehicles present at the Pole Farm and surrounding areas. Specific conditions must be met in order to burn, including temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction.

For more information on the Mercer Meadows prescribed burn, please visit mercercountyparks.org for frequently asked questions, maps and resources.

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