Walking up the trail to the top of Stegall Mountain, some of the trees have black charred bark. The area has been burned in a prescribed fire, a tool that forest managers use to regenerate the land and create animal habitats.
Rose-Marie Muzika, a professor of forestry at the University of Missouri, said that all fires (even naturally occurring fires) were put out during the “era of fire suppression” from the 1930s through the 1990s.
“We didn’t want to lose this valuable resource. But then we learned that some areas are supposed to have fires, and that wasn’t conventional wisdom until relatively recently,” Muzika said. “So with that increasing scientific knowledge, we realized that it’s important to put fire into these areas.”
Now that the area has been burned, the landscape looks different. The top of the mountain, which was once covered in forest growth, is dotted with huge pink rocks covered in green lichens. These rocks provide the habitat for certain species like the collared lizard.
“These open rock areas are necessary habitats for the collared lizard, and so without fire, the forest encroached upon here and the habitat was gone,” Muzika said.
Edited By: Caroline Murray