“We aren’t seeing young oak trees in the preserve, because they are they are being shaded out by other trees,” says Margit Bucher, who leads the Conservancy’s fire program. “That means a reduction in acorns, which animals like deer depend on. This burn will also ensure that low-growing flowers and plants get sun to survive.”
The Ashe County preserve is home to more than 400 plant species, including 25 that are rare, endangered or threatened. The Conservancy will burn 80 acres of the 2,087-acre preserve.
Conservancy staff began planning for the burn more than a year ago. “We only conduct controlled burns after careful planning,” says Bucher. “Everything has to be right before we ignite. These are low-intensity burns, designed to take out the lower growing shrubs and trees without harming the oaks and other large trees. In addition to oak regeneration, there should be a whole host of flowers and herbs that will appear after the burn.”
The Nature Conservancy has an extensive controlled burning program. Until now, most of those efforts have been concentrated in the Sandhills and the southeast Coastal Plain. Since January, the Conservancy has burned more than 4,000 acres in those two areas.
The Conservancy began preserving property at Bluff Mountain in 1977. It is located in the southwestern part of Ashe County between West Jefferson and the Creston community. It is bordered by West Buffalo Road to the north, Three Top Road to the west and Bald Mountain Road to the east.