Many eastern forest communities depend on fire for regeneration or are enhanced by fire as a restoration practice. However, the use of prescribed fire in the mesic forested environments and the densely populated regions of the eastern United States has been limited. The objective of our research was to develop a science-based approach to prioritizing the use of prescribed fire in appropriate forest types in the eastern United States based on a set of desired management outcomes. Through a process of expert elicitation and data analysis, we assessed and integrated recent vegetation community mapping results along with other available spatial data layers into a spatial prioritization tool for prescribed fire planning at Shenandoah National Park (Virginia, USA). The integration of vegetation spatial data allowed for development of per-pixel priority rankings and exclusion areas enabling precise targeting of fire management activities on the ground, as well as a park-wide ranking of fire planning compartments. We demonstrate the use and evaluation of this approach through implementation and monitoring of a prescribed burn and show that progress is being made toward desired conditions. Integration of spatial data into the fire planning process has served as a collaborative tool for the implementation of prescribed fire projects, which assures projects will be planned in the most appropriate areas to meet objectives that are supported by current science.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3