For hundreds of years the use of fire has been used as a key management tool in forests. Using fire for habitat management is known as prescribed or controlled burning. Prescribed burning is beneficial and cost-effective. In fact, many species of wildlife depend on fire. Controlled burns remove the build up of combustible material on forest floors. They also help stimulate the growth of new grasses and vegetation that provide cover and food sources for a variety of wildlife. Many legumes require the seeds be scarified before they will germinate; prescribed burns help accomplish this, increasing the chance legumes will germinate. Burning also acts as a fertilizer. When built up organic matter such as leaves and pine straw are burnt, it releases nutrients back into the soil, helping fertilize new growth.
Forest animals benefit greatly from the food sources and habitat made available after prescribed burns. Hardwoods and shrubs quickly resprout, offering a buffet deer can easily reach. Burning also increases the number of insects on the regenerating forest floor, which have proved valuable to turkeys and upland birds such as quail. Burning also creates desirable nesting areas for turkey and upland birds.
There are many different ways to execute a prescribed burn. Breaking areas into small blocks and burning them on a rotational basis will give you many different stages of growth on your property. Ideally, you want to burn a section about every three years. This will leave you some sections for cover and bedding areas while the others provide new food sources.
It is important to contact your local forest service office for laws in your area, and what permits are needed to perform a controlled burn. They can also tell you when and what type burn will be the most effective for your desired management goals. Many times the forest service can perform a prescribed burn if you do not feel comfortable performing one yourself. You can also contract with private companies to perform the burn for you.