- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - A Purdue University forestry expert is setting fire to some of Indiana’s oak forests as part of a long-term project to reinvigorate those woodlands.

Associate professor of forestry Michael Saunders led two prescribed burns this fall in about 80 acres of southwestern Indiana’s 63,000-acre oak forest at the Navy’s Crane complex.

Crane’s oaks are used in the periodic restoration of the USS Constitution frigate in the Boston Harbor. That vessel launched in 1797 is the oldest commissioned warship afloat.

Saunders will also oversee burns next year and in 2016 at the Bloomington area’s Yellowwood and Morgan Monroe State forests.

The burns are intended to spur regeneration of oak forests and improve wildlife habitat by reducing forest thickets.

Saunders calls oak forests “the driver of the timber industry in Indiana.”

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