Winnebago County Forest Preserve District begins spring burning
In the coming weeks, neighbors and passersby may notice signs of the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District (WCFPD) prescribed-burn program at select sites.
Prescribed burns are deliberately set, controlled, natural-resource-management tools the district has used for nearly 30 years to restore the health of native prairies, wetlands and woodlands.
Because the safe use of prescribed burning depends on proper weather conditions, WCFPD has not set specific dates for its spring burning season. However, on the day a prescribed burn does take place, WCFPD crews post signs, notify local fire protection agencies, and remain at the site with their equipment. If these factors are not present, the public is asked to notify authorities by calling 911.
Mike Groves, Natural Resource manager, explains: “The district uses prescribed burns to remove invasive, nonnative vegetation. This improves conditions for native species, which have evolved to coexist with fire.”
After a burn, many native plants are more robust and produce more seeds. Fire lengthens their growing season, recycles nutrients and, for a few species, is critical for their seeds to sprout. Oaks, hickories and a few other trees grow a thick bark that protects them from fire. Big bluestem and many other plants of the prairie and savanna keep their buds safe just beneath the soil’s surface. Nonnative weeds aren’t so well-adapted and burning keeps them in check.
WCFPD has set a goal of burning 3,000 acres this year.
From the Feb. 29-March 6, 2012, issue
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