Controlled Burns Aid New England Forests

For at least 5,000 years before Europeans arrived in North America, Native Americans periodically set vast swaths of New England on fire. Settlers brought the practice to a halt by the mid-18th century. But today conservationists are again burning the forest to restore the ecosystem and dampen the fire risk to some towns.

Tim Simmons is a restoration ecologist with the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program in Westborough. Speaking of the early Native Americans, Simmons said fire “was sort of a Leatherman [or multi-tool] of their time. They used it for everything.”