Wisconsin DNR will conduct prescribed burns over next three months

WAUKESHA –The Department of Natural Resources is proposing to conduct prescribed burns on several state properties in Walworth, Waukesha, and Rock counties during March, April and May.

These state areas are located in the Towns of Eagle, Muskego, Oconomowoc, Ottawa, Waukesha, Vernon, and Mukwonago in Waukesha County; the Towns of Bloomfield, Darien, East Troy, La Grange, Lyons, Richmond, Sharon, Sugar Creek, Troy, and Whitewater in Walworth County; and the Town of Bradford in Rock County. The actual amount of acreage burned will vary depending up on weather conditions.

Prescribed burns are used in management to improve wildlife habitat, control invasive plant species, restore and maintain native plant communities, and reduce wildfire potential. Some specific advantages of prescribed burns include:

• Stimulating prairie grass growth and improve habitat for upland game and waterfowl.

• Creating pockets of open water for waterfowl amidst cattails proliferating in low areas.

• Improving cover type for upland nesting birds, such as pheasants, and spurs native vegetative growth for songbirds.

• Help preserve grassland, savanna, and many forest plant communities sustained by natural fires prior to intensive European settlement

Why do we use fire? The vast, sweeping wildfires of 150 years ago have been all but eliminated in Wisconsin. These fires, set primarily by Native Americans, were once as much a part of the pre-settlement Wisconsin environment as rain, drought and the passing of the seasons. Because frequent fire played a significant role in the development of much of Wisconsin’s native plant communities for thousands of years, many plant and animal species now depend on fire for their continued existence.

Prairie grasses and flowers develop deep roots and buds beneath the soil, enabling them to withstand the heat of a fire while shallow rooted invasive brush succumbs. In addition, our oak ecosystems rely on fire to remove accumulated leaf litter, dead trees, and invading brush, maintaining the open character of oak savannas, and in general, keeping oak on the landscape. Without management, including the use of prescribed burning, we will lose many of our native grassland, wetland, woodland plant communities.

When do they occur? Prescribed burning typically occurs during the early spring (March through May) and late fall (November), but can occur beyond these periods if conditions allow. These are the periods when conditions allow for safe burning, and generally when desirable plant and animal species are less active. In the spring this typically means between the time that snow has melted and significant green-up has occurred. In the fall, this is typically after some good hard frosts and before winter precipitation.

What about safety? Before any burn is conducted, experienced and trained personnel assess the area to determine the wind direction and speed, relative humidity, grass moisture, and safety requirements. Qualified personnel control fire behavior through the use of comprehensive planning and specialized fire equipment.

What about the smoke? Smoke control is an important aspect of any prescribed burn plan. Prior to burning, experienced personnel carefully review the burn area and the proximity of houses, roads, and other smoke sensitive areas. This information is then incorporated into the plan and the prescribed burn occurs when favorable conditions (e.g., wind) minimize the amount of smoke reaching these areas.

Burn proposals may be reviewed at the DNR Waukesha Service Center, 141 NW Barstow St., Room 180, Waukesha, WI 53188. Questions or comments regarding the burns should be directed to Wildlife Management staff at the Waukesha Service Center at 262-574-2116.

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