Update: Prescribed burns in nature preserve to begin Wednesday

May 7, 2013

by Käri Knutson

Photo: workers conducting prescribed burn of Biocore Prairie

Representatives of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and employees of Quercus Land Stewardship Services conduct a controlled prairie burn in the Biocore Prairie at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in November 2011.

Photo: Bryce Richter

Updated: Prescribed burns will begin taking place Wednesday, May 8 in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve near the western edge of the UW-Madison campus, says preserve field technician Adam Gundlach.

Fire is a natural element of many ecosystems and an essential tool for restoration and management of prairies, savannas and woodlands, Gundlach says. Prescribed burns are one management strategy to help control weeds, remove encroaching woody plants and stimulate growth of fire-adapted communities.

In this region, prescribed fires are conducted in fall and spring. They are generally used as a tool in ecological restoration efforts, but can also be used to reduce fuel loads and prevent catastrophic wildfires.

“We can use fire to both inhibit and push back invasive species and promote the native plant communities that once covered much of southwestern Wisconsin.”

Adam Gundlach

"Fire removes the thatch layer," Gundlach says. "We can use fire to both inhibit and push back invasive species and promote the native plant communities that once covered much of southwestern Wisconsin."

Areas that will be burned include fields north and west of Biocore Prairie, the field and portions of the surrounding oak woodland at the base of Picnic Point, the bioswales west of the Natatorium, Willow Creek Woods, and Lot 34.

This year, crews have been a bit behind because of the cold, wet weather.

"It's definitely made it more challenging," Gundlach says. "We were done burning by this point last year."

Given the preserve's proximity to the campus and surrounding residential neighborhoods, the prescribed burn program is dependent on specific wind and weather conditions to lift smoke away from sensitive areas.

Gundlach looks for south winds and good smoke dispersal conditions, which blow smoke away from campus and residential buildings.

The burns will be conducted by a crew from Quercus Land Stewardship Services. All members of the burn crew have completed wildland fire training courses certified by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.