The Piedmont Environmental Council is planning a controlled burn of about 20 acres it owns at Gilbert’s Corner sometime this month.
The burn will occur within the triangular area bounded by Rt. 50, Rt. 15 and Howser’s Branch Drive.
“For more than a decade, this area has been left fallow and is now unusable for agricultural production due to invasion by red cedar and non-native invasive species such as Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and autumn olive,” stated Celia Vuocolo, PEC’s wildlife habitat and stewardship specialist.
The goal of the prescribed burn is to control invasive species without the use of herbicides, put nutrients back into the soil, avoid soil compaction that occurs when land is mechanically cleared, and facilitate management of the area for agricultural production.
The Virginia Department of Forestry will perform the burn, with the precise schedule in January depending on weather conditions. A management plan for the burn includes creating a fire break around the perimeter and, among other safeguards, waiting until weather conditions—notably wind speed and direction—are favorable.
Following the burn, the area will be cleared of debris and will be planted with a cover crop to inhibit soil erosion. Then the field will be available to be leased for agricultural use in 2017.
PEC acquired the 141-acre property in 2013 with the goal of protecting the area’s historic and scenic landscape, restoring the property’s degraded streams, enhancing wildlife habitat, and reinvigorating the agricultural use of the property.