Elk NetworkSouth Dakota Prescribed Burn Improves Wildlife Habitat, Forest Health

General | October 19, 2023

Below is a news release from the Black Hills National Forest.

The Hell Canyon Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest is planning to conduct the Witch prescribed fire project October 20 and 21, 2023, weather dependent. The objectives of the prescribed burn are to enhance wildlife habitat and reduce fuel loads.

The Witch project area is located approximately 3 miles southwest of Pringle, South Dakota. We are asking forest visitors and hunters to avoid the area during this time. Smoke from the prescribed burn will be visible throughout the day of the burn and may linger for several days. Firefighters will be on site throughout the day of ignition and will periodically patrol the burn for several days afterward. If you see smoke from this burn, please refrain from calling 911.

Alternative funding sources were provided by grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Specific project objectives are focused on enhancing forage for big game wildlife, restoring open forest conditions dominated by ponderosa pine, and reducing fuel loading. Removal of encroaching trees from meadows helps maintain the native plants that grow in these areas and provides forage for wildlife.

“These prescribed fire projects are designed to mimic the natural fire return interval and restore natural fire intensities,” said Todd Hoover, Hell Canyon Fire Management Officer, Black Hills National Forest. “Reducing fuel loading will decrease future wildland fire intensity and severity, lowering the risk of negative impacts to ecosystems, cultural resources, and communities that can result from uncharacteristically severe wildfires.”

Prescribed fire specialists compare current and predicted environmental conditions to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn on a given day. Burn plans include 21 separate elements including Goals & Objectives, Prescription (weather and fire behavior), Holding plans, and Contingency planning. A prescribed burn will not be ignited unless the conditions meet the criteria described in the burn plan.

(Photo credit: Black Hills National Forest)