DNR Plans Controlled Burns in Local Wildlife Area
For the City-Times
Smoke could be rising from the Buena Vista Wildlife Area in Portage County this spring, if conditions are right, and later from one field in the Town of Hewitt, part of the Marathon County Forest.
Smoke means fire, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
As the flames race across the field, the fire consumes dead vegetation, invasive species and other harmful plants, leaving a mineral rich coating of ash on soil that is newly exposed to the sun’s energy. This will spur the growth of hardy native plants, creating wildlife habitat while making it more difficult for invasive species to gain ground.
The key is to make sure the fire stays within a predetermined area, also referred to as a burn unit. . The Department of Natural Resources calls these “controlled burns” or “prescribed burns.” They occur under strict guidelines and only when weather conditions are favorable. They are a common tool used by wildlife biologists to preserve the richness and diversity of state-managed properties.
In addition, safely burning off dead vegetation reduces the risk of wildfires.
There are two areas slated for burning in Marathon and Portage counties this spring:
- Marathon County Forest, Town of Hewitt, one field at 112 acres.
- Buena Vista Wildlife Area, southwest Portage County, two parcels totaling 340 acres.
Parcels are typically burned on a two-to-five-year rotation and vary in size from 2 to 340 acres.
Prescribed burns also:
- Stimulate prairie grass growth and improve habitat for upland game and waterfowl.
- Create pockets of open water for waterfowl amidst cattails proliferating in low areas.
- Improve cover type for upland nesting birds, such as prairie chickens and wild turkeys, and spur native vegetative growth for songbirds.
- Help preserve grasslands and native flora, plant species sustained by natural fires prior to intensive European settlement.
For information regarding prescribed burning or specifics about an individual burn site contact Kris Johansen, DNR wildlife biologist, at 715-284-1430or at [email protected].