Date of this Version
United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station General Technical Report SRS–110 November 2008
This synthesis provides an overview of hazardous fuels management in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) forests, as well as a reference guide on prescribed burning and alternative fuel management treatments. Available information is presented on treatment feasibility, approximate costs, and effects on soil, water quality, and wildlife. The objectives of fuel management in loblolly pine forests are to reduce the density of some targeted plant vegetation and change the structural condition of the forest, or both. Prescribed burning is the most common tool for managing fuels in the South due to the relatively low cost per acre and the ability to reduce fuel levels rather than rearrange them. Mechanical treatments may be effective in reducing wildfire risk by redistributing the fuels closer to the ground, creating a more compact fuel bed. Mulching (mastication) and chipping are the only common mechanical treatments in the Southern United States and generally are used as precursors to prescribed burning. The limited use of mechanical treatments is due to the rapid redevelopment of live fuels and higher treatment costs than prescribed burning. Herbicide treatments for hazardous fuels management are a realistic option in certain situations. Although herbicides cannot replace prescribed burning or mechanical operations where dead fuels must be removed or repositioned closer to the ground, they are useful as preliminary treatments to kill or suppress live fuels or following a prescribed burn or mechanical operation to kill resprouting woody species. Although livestock grazing is no longer common in southern forests, grazing can be used to reduce certain types of live fuels. For example, sheep grazing has been used in Florida to control saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Wider impacts of fuel treatments are discussed for several social and ecological factors, such as soil erosion, water quality, wildlife, and public acceptability.