Hotspots - Oak Fire Science

In each of  our quarterly newsletters, we feature a fire-science “hotspot” where we bring into focus the fire science and management at different sites across the region.

Our Hotspots selections are below, in chronological order, with most recent first. Click each link to see full descriptions and photos.


Lake Maumelle, Arkansas

Arkansas’ largest drinking water utility manages land surrounding this lake, the primary source of drinking water for Little Rock. The company uses prescribed fire and timber thinning their woods to maintain groundcover and protect water quality.

Latitude/Longitude: 34.881440, -92.569510

Fort Worth Botanic Garden – Botanical Research Institute of Texas

This 120-acre park in the heart of Fort Worth features stands of iconic native grasses. Prescribed fires are conducted here, which have provided valuable opportunities to plan and execute burns in a challenging urban landscape where smoke management is a major issue.

Latitude/Longitude: 32.74049, -97.36377

Okmulgee Wildlife Management Area

The sandstone-strewn rolling hills in the 9,470-acre Okmulgee Wildlife Management Area contain the largest contiguous tract of ancient Cross Timbers woodlands. Management by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has included prescribed fire since 1988.

Latitude/Longitude: 35.64, -96.04

Pine/Oak Barrens Restoration on the Kentucky Cumberland Plateau

Prescribed fire is among the treatments being used to restore pine-oak barrens within a 250-acre preserve on the Cumberland Plateau in southeast Kentucky. The herbaceous layer beneath the pines and oaks includes rare species, and a sensitive acid seep is within the preserve.

Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area

Located southeast of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, this 11,000+ acre WMA contains post oak savanna, maintained with prescribed fire and mechanical treatments. The area also includes hardwood bottomlands, marshes, swamps, and almost 300 acres of sphagnum moss bogs.

Latitude/Longitude:  31.91, -95.90

Boone Creek Barrens

This rare barrens natural community in the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana is being restored with prescribed fire, with 855 acres being treated every 3-5 years since 2003. Wildflowers abound, and oaks, the historically dominant tree species, prevail here once again.

Latitude/Longitude:  38.14, -86.47


JenksFERST (Fire Ecology Research Station for Teaching)

This long-term fire science study site, a four-acre hayfield with 26 study plots, is owned by Jenks Public Schools near Tulsa, OK, and is used to teach high school students how to conduct scientific research on the impact of prescribed fire on plant communities in the Tallgrass Prairie and Cross Timbers ecoregions.

Latitude/Longitude:  36.00, -96.00

Savage Gulf State Natural Area, Tennessee

Shortleaf pine and fire were historically important in this 18,000 acre natural area on the Cumberland Plateau, but fire exclusion had led to a closed canopy hardwood forest. Prescribed burns and other restoration activities have recently been initiated.

Latitude/Longitude: 35.46, -85.60

Targeted Browsing/Woodland Restoration on the Mark Twain NF

At a site on the Mark Twain National Forest in the Missouri Ozarks, researchers are studying whether targeted goat browsing may be an alternative to prescribed fire as a tool for restoring woodlands, by helping to reduce tree density and to increase understory growth.

Latitude/Longitude: 37.89, -92.02

Touch of Nature Environmental Center

This 3400-acre center in southern Illinois, established in 1950s, has been challenged by increasingly dense forests due to fire exclusion. Prescribed fire and other practices have increased sunlight, which has improved herbaceous plant cover.

Latitude/Longitude: 37.63, -89.16

Eastview Barrens State Nature Preserve

This 200-acre preserve in north-central Kentucky is an outstanding remnant of “Big Barrens” vegetation. Dominated by oaks and grasses, the area hosts many species of conservation concern. Evidence of historical fires likely explains the persistence of rare plants. Fire was suppressed in the past, but after acquisition for conservation, the barrens community has responded quickly to mechanical thinning and prescribed fire.


Ha Ha Tonka Oak Woodland Natural Area

In 1983, prescribed fire was introduced to Ha Ha Tonka in central Missouri, making it a very early example of successful use of controlled fire. Burned every 3 to 7 years, this oak-dominated woodland has a rich herbaceous layer where floristic quality has dramatically improved since fire management began.

Latitude/Longitude: 37.97, -92.76

Hitz-Rhodehamel Woods

Fire has been excluded for much of the past century in Hitz-Rhodehamel Woods Nature Preserve in southern Indiana, resulting in chronic management problems. Now, prescribed fire and mechanical thinning are reducing the midstory, which promotes diverse, fire-adapted plant communities, and prepares the next generation of oak seedlings to recruit into the overstory.

Latitude/Longitude: 39.25, -86.22

Catoosa Savanna/Woodland Project

This wildlife management area on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau historically supported shortleaf pine, but the species was overtaken by hardwoods following widespread mortality during a southern pine bark beetle outbreak in 1999-2000. Managers are now using prescribed fire, salvage logging, and commercial thinning to manage for oak-pine woodlands and savannas.

Latitude/Longitude: 36.07, -84.85

Clymer Meadow Preserve

Some of the largest and most diverse remnant prairies in Texas’ Blackland Prairie region are in and near this Nature Conservancy preserve. Plant diversity and abundance has increased under current management, which consists of prescribed fire, grazing, and mowing.

Latitude/Longitude: 33.30, -96.24

Optimus Glade and Woodland Restoration Area

Sandstone glades and surrounding woodlands on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in northern Arkansas are being restored with fire and other management practices. Plants and animals adapted to these open, dry, rocky sites include the collared lizard and Ozark calamint.

Latitude/Longitude: 36.04, -92.09


Cold Hill Restoration Experiment

This site on the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky assesses the effects of commercial thinning and prescribed fire, particularly as related to forest health in light of a potential major disturbance, such as gypsy moth infestation.

Latitude/Longitude: 37.07, -84.20


Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment

This 100-year study in southcentral Indiana seeks to better understand ecological and social impacts of long-term forest management, including prescribed fire.

Latitude/Longitude: 39.33,-86.51


Pushmataha Habitat Research Demonstration Area

On this pine-dominated wildlife management area in southeastern Oklahoma, researchers are comparing the long-term effects of 1, 2, 3, and 4-year fire rotations on native grass production for wildlife and cattle forage.

Latitude/Longitude: 34.53, -95.35


Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

On igneous mountains in southwestern Oklahoma, where the Osage Plains and the Cross Timbers ecoregions intertwine, land managers are using prescribed fire to improve forage for native grazers and improve habitat for wildlife species of concern.

Latitude/Longitude: 34.77, -98.70


Chilton Creek Research and Demonstration Area

Low-intensity prescribed fires have been conducted here since 1998, with fire frequencies ranging from one to four years. This research is part of a long-term landscape-scale study in the southeastern Missouri Ozarks.

Latitude/Longitude: 37.06, -91.05

Trail of Tears State Forest Demonstration Management Area

In this Illinois state forest, land managers are undertaking an innovative oak restoration experiment, studying the impacts of various combinations of forest thinning and prescribed burning.

Latitude/Longitude: 37.52, -89.34

Marais des Cygnes and La Cygne State Wildlife Areas

A long-term woodland restoration experiment on this wildlife area in southeastern Kansas assesses six different management treatments using various combinations of thinning and prescribed burning.

Latitude/Longitude: 38.26, -94.66

Bridgestone/Firestone Prescribed Fire Demonstration Area

Located on the Cumberland Plateau and managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, this demonstration area displays the effects of varying fire frequency and fire seasonality on the plant community.

Latitude/Longitude: 35.88,-85.27

Pine-Bluestem Buffalo Road Tour

This self-guided road tour in the Ouachita National Forest in western Arkansas showcases prescribed fire and commercial forest management working in tandem toward large-scale restoration of shortleaf pine ecosystems.

Latitude/Longitude: 34.80,-94.08

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Located in Clermont, Kentucky, this research forest assesses prescribed fire use to control encroachment by fire-intolerant tree species.

Latitude/Longitude: 37.90, -85.62

Back to top