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  • Emery Compton

Fire on the Prairie

On Sunday, January 8th, Courtney Masterson, with Native Lands, guided members of Black Jack in conducting a prescribed burn of our restored prairie. Although the wind was a bit finicky, the burn was quick, efficient and most importantly safe!

Prescribed burning is known to provide the space and resources necessary to increase biodiversity of prairies. It encourages the growth of many wildflower species, boosts habitat quality for local wildlife, and adds nutrients to the soil. Fire is a great way to keep invasive species under control, without it our prairie would slowly turn to woodland. Setting fire to the land will allow for a healthy prairie to sprout in the spring.

You may be wondering why we decided to burn in the winter. This is an understandable question since many of us are used to seeing farmland burned in the spring. Courtney Masterson explained “We burn in winter to avoid harming the native vegetation and wildlife as much as possible. Spring burning may harm nesting birds, breeding reptiles and amphibians, as well as sensitive spring wildflowers. Winter burning occurs when those animals and plants are resting.”

We’ve been asked about the insects that have laid eggs in the prairie. We wanted to explain that when we burn, we make sure to only burn a portion of the prairie. So, it’s a give and take. We leave a lot of standing dead plant material on the land, which means while some insects are lost, the vast majority remain. Native plants will thrive as a result of our burn, causing a positive chain reaction in our prairie.

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