Harding Advisories/Notices

3/17/2020 - Great Swamp Controlled Burn Notice



Note: On days of prescribed burns, the refuge, Visitor Center, and Wildlife Observation Center will remain open to the public.  Pleasant Plains Road and associated parking areas will be closed from just south of the Visitor Center parking lot to the South Gate of the refuge.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will conduct up to four days of controlled burns between March and May 2020 on wetland and grassland units at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Harding Township, NJ. The Service’s trained fire personnel, in coordination with local police and fire departments, regularly conduct controlled burns on refuge lands to maintain and restore habitat for wildlife. Actual dates are dependent on weather conditions, favorable winds for smoke to rise and disperse, and the availability of trained wildland firefighters.


Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1960, in part to provide habitat for migrating ducks and geese, and for the protection of natural resources and conservation of the nation’s wetlands.  Five artificial wetlands, also called impoundments, were constructed in the early 1970s and 1980s to provide migrating, nesting, brood-rearing, and feeding habitat for waterfowl.  Additionally, about 460 acres of grassland units are managed to enhance breeding and foraging habitat for priority species of conservation concern.  Over the past decade, woody vegetation has invaded impoundments and grassland units, reducing the quality of these habitats for wildlife. The use of prescribed fire to restore habitat is part of the refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which was finalized November of 2014.

The goal of these controlled burns is to increase the amount of open water and open grasslands available to wildlife by reducing the amount of standing dead vegetation and invading woody vegetation in the impoundment and fields.  Once restored, impoundments will provide better feeding, nesting, brood rearing, and resting habitat for the ducks and geese that use the refuge. In addition to improved habitat, visitors to the refuge also benefit from prescribed burns because fire promotes native species and habitats, thus increasing wildlife observation opportunities.

In total, we expect to burn a 343-acreimpoundment and up to 88 acres of grassland fields.  Each burn will be carried out from mid-morning to late afternoon, contingent on the right weather conditions.  Existing refuge roads and mowed fire lines around the burn units will be used to contain the fire within the burn units. Trained fire personnel with specialized equipment will ignite, monitor, and control the fire and its resulting smoke. Local emergency personnel, including the local police and fire departments, will also be notified prior to each prescribed burn.  Smoke columns produced could be visible for several miles.

For additional information, please view our website (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/great_swamp/) or contact Deputy Refuge Manager Lia McLaughlin at 973-417-9542.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.  For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.