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FAW opposed to periodic fire at Tracy Ridge

Last month, the U.S. Forest Service announced a proposed project to maintain oak in the Tracy Ridge area via fire.

A local environmental group which advocates for wilderness designation on the forest doesn’t view that as a reasonable response.

“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 “periodic” fire – beginning in 2022 – as the disturbance on roughly 2,000 acres “in the vicinity of Sugar Bay and the Handsome Lake Campground.”

“Obviously, this project is not ideal,” Kirk Johnson, executive director of Friends of Allegheny Wilderness wrote in a comment provided to the ANF on the project and shared with the Times Observer.

“The Project unnecessarily interferes with the forest ecology of the proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness Area where we know it should simply be left alone to be self-willed land in perpetuity.

Johnson acknowledged that there are prescribed burns in wilderness areas in other forests across the country, especially in the west.

“But since the ANF’s controlled burn Project is just an attempt to artificially, electively manipulate the forest composition in the area, and not a means to reduce catastrophic forest fire threat, it does not seem nearly as urgent or necessary.

“Perhaps everybody, and the land, would be better off if the Project was simply abandoned at this point.”

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