© Bruce McNitt/Panoramic Images (Virginia)

Fire Exclusion in Virginia

Prior to the 20th Century, fire occurred regularly in some parts of Virginia. Both Native Americans and settlers used fire to clear land and to improve habitat for game. Also there were fewer manmade firebreaks, such as roads and large agricultural fields, thus permitting accidental and lightning induced fires to sweep across large areas. Consequently, many of Virginia’s original native plants and animals were adapted to or even dependent upon fire. But modern policies that require wildfires to be extinguished as rapidly as possible have contributed to declines in many of the state’s fire-adapted species and natural communities have declined.  

The inventory process of the Natural Heritage Program has helped identify many of the remnant populations of fire-dependent species and communities. Some of these sites have been acquired for the Natural Area Preserve System and landowners of some other sites are cooperating to ensure their long-term protection. Natural heritage staff are using prescribed fire to restore these sites and are carefully monitoring the results.

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