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WMA land torched – for a good reason

Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 acres of woods on the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area were burned this week.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources conducted the controlled burn using a Georgia Forestry Commission helicopter to launch small ping-pong-type balls used as incendiaries to start the fires.

This is second controlled burn of this scale of the Silver Lake tract since the state took procession of the property in 2008 after it purchased it from International Paper Company.

Last February, the DNR burned more than 3,500 acres, which was one of the state’s largest controlled burns completed in one day and the largest for the helicopter pilot.

“We’ve been waiting for today,” said Brian Vickery, the field supervisor with the DNR who conducted the burn. “Everything has been waiting for the weather.”

Thursday was perfect—winds and humidity in the range that make controlled fires relatively easy to manage. The only drawback was the excessive moisture on the ground and in the fuel—or the understory—because of recent rains, said Rodney Heard, acting chief ranger with the local forestry unit.

Vickery said the Hog Farm tract of Silver Lake hasn’t been burned for many years, and the state is trying to get the whole property into a control burn rotation.

He said the agency is also preparing for some timber harvesting on the property, which would thin out some of the planted pines the paper company planted several years ago.

All of this is to improve the wildlife and their habitat, Vickery said.