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Allegheny National Forest seeks input on ecosystem maintenance

Times Observer file photo Allegheny National Forest fire personnel work at the site of a prescribed burn. The ANF is seeking comment on a fire treatment plan for some 2,000 acres in the Tracy Ridge Recreation Area.

There hasn’t always been a predominantly oak ecosystem around Tracy Ridge.

But, there is now and the Allegheny National Forest is looking for input on a plan to keep it that way.

“The mature oak stands present today were established through a combination of pre-settlement Native American land use, which included the use of low to moderate intensity fires, and unregulated logging that occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s,” according to a release from Bradford District Ranger Rich Hatfield. “Since then, the area has remained largely undisturbed.”

Without some disturbance, the oak ecosystem will be replaced “as other hardwood species outcompete oak seedlings,” Hatfield said.

The ANF plans to use fire as the disturbance.

“To create and maintain a more open stand structure, and a competitive advantage for oak seedlings to replace mature oaks when the succumb to natural mortality events, the USDA Forest Service is proposing to reintroduce periodic fire on approximately 2,000 acres in the vicinity of Sugar Bay and the Handsome Lake Campground,” Hatfield said.

The burns would begin in 2022 and be designed to only burn the surface materials in the understory.

A scoping document may be found at www.fs.usda.gov/project=58647.

Those interested in more information may contact Hatfield at richard.hatfield@usda.gov or (814) 363-6098.

Comments may be sent to Rich Hatfield, District Ranger, Bradford Ranger District, Allegheny National Forest, 29 Forest Service Dr., Bradford, PA, 16701, or emailed to comments-eastern-allegheny-bradford@usda.gov with Tracy Ridge Oak Ecosystem Conservation in the subject line and including the sender’s name and mailing address, or by calling (814) 363-6000 during normal business hours.

“Comments may be submitted at any time, but would be most helpful if received by Oct. 15, 2020,” Hatfield said.

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