Skip Navigation

#Fridaysonthefarm: Fire Sparks New Growth on an Old Farm

#Fridaysonthefarm: Fire Sparks New Growth on an Old Farm

Story by: Diane Petit, NRCS Massachusetts

Each Friday, meet farmers, producers and landowners through our #Fridaysonthefarm stories. Visit local farms, ranches, forests and resource areas where NRCS and partners help people help the land.  CLICK HERE to view all #Fridaysonthefarmstories.


This Friday, we visit the East Quabbin Land Trust's Frohloff Farm in Ware, Massachusetts where a prescribed burn brings new growth to the 90 acre farm.

Map of the United States

 

Challenges

When the East Quabbin Land Trust purchased the 90 acre Frohloff Farm, the farm hadn't been managed as farmland in many years. 

Invasive species like glossy buckthorn, multiflora rose, bittersweet and honeysuckle were taking over.

#Fridaysonthefarm MA Farmhouse

 

“We purchased the property for a variety of reasons,” says Cynthia Henshaw, East Quabbin Land Trust's Executive Director. “We were interested in seeing agriculture continue, but also for wildlife habitat and water supply."

"We’re directly adjacent to the Ware River, and there's priority habitat for wildlife including the wood turtle.”

The first order of business was to develop a forest stewardship plan.

The Solution

NRCS Soil Conservationist David Bacon worked with the land trust on financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement their forest management plan.

EQIP, a voluntary program, provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related natural resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.  Learn more. 

The plan called for commonly used conservation practices that would restore native pitch pine, oak savannah bluff and low bush blueberry heath ecosystems by clearing land that had been reforested with white pine and gray birch, and by controlling invasive species.

The “Early Successional Habitat Development” practice involves cutting or mowing existing vegetation so that more sunlight reaches the soil, allowing desirable species to grow without competition of large shade-producing canopy plants. The “Brush Management” practice removes undesirable invasive species through cutting or spraying, which helps desirable, native vegetation to thrive.

Firefighter GIF

 

A key component of the plan was opening up the forest canopy with fire. The land trust contracted with the professionals at Northeast Fire and Forest Management to conduct a prescribed burn.

They also enlisted Dave Celino, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Bureau of Forest Fire Control Chief, and his team to assist in this process.  

“Fire used to be a natural part of the ecosystem,” explains Celino. “It burns off the mulch layers. The natural grasses respond very favorably to fire. It's an immediate injection of potash into the soil and it provides openings.”

“Why do we want to kill a certain amount of trees in the canopy? Well, there's a positive effect: they become wildlife condos. In the fire business we call them snag trees but they become great wildlife habitat nesting trees,” says Celino.

Success

One of the principal reasons for burning is to promote the pitch pine and oak communities. Those species do really well under burns because their seeds can fall onto barren, mineral soil, where they can re-sprout without competition from white pine and gray birch. 

“Seeing new pitch pines come up, seeing the scrub oak continue, seeing the little bluestem grasses flourish, that's a success because with those plant species will come all the invertebrates and all the animals that use those.” says the land trust's Henshaw.

 

The East Quabbin Land Trust owns about a thousand acres in a dozen central Massachusetts communities. 

“We work very hard in our planning to promote public use and access, good stewardship and forest management, and agriculture,” says Henshaw.  

“Working with NRCS over the years has really made a huge difference. It makes it possible for us to do this kind of work.”

Check out the full story in the video below.


Follow the #Fridaysonthefarm and other voluntary conservation stories on @USDA_NRCS Twitter and @USDA Facebook.

View the interactive ESRI storymap of this #Fridaysonthefarm feature.