Restoring and Maintaining Cultural Landscapes and Defensible Space with Fire

A green grass path, with burned areas on both sides of the path, leads up a hill to a red house

Over the course of a year, from June 2012 to June 2013, Acadia National Park fire staff have been performing mechanical and prescribed fire fuels projects on Baker Island to provide defensible space and restore and maintain the park's cultural landscape. Baker Island, to the southeast of Mount Desert Island, Maine, is part of Acadia National Park. Marking the southern entrance to Frenchman’s Bay, it is one of five islands that make up the Cranberry Isles. The island is home to the Baker Island Light Station, the keeper’s house, and the park-owned historic Gilley House. The Baker Island Light Station, established in 1828, is the oldest in the Mount Desert region and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Two private residences and several outbuildings also occupy the island.

Historically, the island was actively farmed and maintained in an open landscape through grazing. Natural succession has led to the island’s landscape returning to a closed timber and shrub community. The park’s vision is to maintain the island’s cultural landscape to include open viewsheds. Prescribed fire provides a natural mechanism to achieve this objective.

In June 2012, fire crews spent 12 days on the island performing mechanical fuel reductions near the lighthouse and keeper’s house, removing approximately 350 trees. In spring 2013, following the mechanical fuels treatment, Acadia National Park fire staff, the Mount Desert Fire Department, US Fish and Wildlife Service firefighters, and park partners, Keepers of Baker Island, conducted a prescribed fire on the island. The burn unit was approximately six acres and made up of grass and shrubs with a heavy component of plants that prefer moist, acidic soils, called ericaceous plants.

The fuels treatments on Baker Island reduced hazardous fuels and created defensible space to irreplaceable historic structures while providing the opportunity for the park, fire departments, and park partners to collaborate, communicate, and develop cohesive working relations that will prove valuable on future projects and wildfire response.

Contact: Fred Mason, fire operations and fuels, Acadia National Park
E-mail: e-mail us
Phone: (207) 288-8783