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Smokey the silent: Smokey Bear visits Pine Bush, but has lost his voice over government shutdown

Smokey Bear and forest ranger Karen Glesmann at the Pine Bush Preserve on Monday, Oct. 14.

Smokey Bear and forest ranger Karen Glesmann at the Pine Bush Preserve on Monday, Oct. 14. Photo by Billy DeLap.

— The Pine Bush Preserve is a 3,200-acre nature preserve with 18 miles of trails for walking, hiking and biking. The preserve is made up of pitch pine scrub oak forest with sand dunes, which was formed by glaciers at the end of the last ice age. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission was set up by the state legislature in 1988 and there are 13 partners making it a public/private partnership.

Most of the funding for the Pine Bush comes from the Environmental Protection Fund. While the furlough has not directly affected the Discovery Center, it has stopped some research projects there with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services and other agencies.

One of the characteristics of the preserve is that many of the plant species depend on periodic fire for their survival. After a burn, the plants will flourish, and without fire, the landscape would change drastically. While controlled burning is necessary for survival of the preserve, Folmer said it is important to educate people on how to prevent forest fires.

“Smokey is an icon, you know? His job is to teach people about fire and fire prevention,” said Folmer. “We don’t want wildfires; we don’t want people doing things that are inappropriate that would cause wildfires. We use Smokey as a great ambassador for kids to learn about fire.”

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