CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Crews began burning hundreds of acres of grassland during a controlled burn at Westover Air Reserve Base Wednesday.
Westover’s airfield is the largest area of unobstructed grassland in all of New England. The controlled burn is part of a biannual effort to maintain healthy grasslands, prevent wildfires, and remove invasive vegetation. And since birds can pose a risk to airfield safety, the burn also helps eliminate habitats for bird prey, like mice.
Westover’s Chief of Environmental Engineering Jack Moriarty told 22News the controlled burn is planned at a time that poses little risk to wildlife.
“We’ve taken great care to burn immediately after the snow melt before it greens up, and so some creatures will still be in hibernation,” Moriarty said. “Very soon we’ll be hearing the frogs and peepers going in the wetlands. But for now, it’s the ideal time to burn.”
Moriarty said because of today’s burn, they’ll have to mow less and use fewer herbicides over the course of the season.