Nature has our backs. Let’s return the favor.
SWMLC’s public preserves remain free and open from dawn to dusk – and your support helps keep them that way!
What Happened Here?
It’s easy to understand how this might be a person’s first reaction when they see a preserve that has just been burned.
The blackened land appears devastated, as if it will never support life again. But even though it looks bad now, the habitat will quickly bounce back with fresh plant growth because of the benefits it has received from a prescribed burn.
Prescribed burns are an important part of SWMLC’s habitat restoration and management tool-kit.
The habitats that we burn (restored prairies, savannas, and oak woodlands) are those that evolved to handle periodic fire. In the past, fires were caused by lightning or deliberately set by the indigenous people who lived here, ancestors of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, who understood its value. The native plants in these habitats have adaptations such as thick bark or deep roots that help them survive fire, while recent invasive newcomers like autumn olive, multiflora rose, and bush honeysuckle don’t.
But with modern fire suppression, the invasive species are growing out of control, competing with native plants for water and soil nutrients, and shading the earth so that little sprouts can’t grow. Fire sets back the heavy cover of invasive plants and invigorates the soil, making a place for the native plants to thrive and creating rich habitat for wildlife.
Prescribed burns are carefully planned and executed.
Burn permits are obtained and local fire officials and preserve neighbors are alerted. Wind and weather conditions are monitored, and each phase of the burn is carefully gone over with crew members. When conducting prescribed burns, SWMLC works with Plantwise, a professional ecological restoration company that has been in business since 1998.
And of course, safety to people and animals is our highest concern!
So we burn in the early spring before nesting season has begun, we keep the fire small enough that animals can escape – and we close our preserves to the public while the burn is in progress.
Photos from 2018 controlled burn at Wolf Tree Nature Trails, Oshtemo (Amelia Hansen).