Tom's Blog

Friday, April 29, 2011

Burning small prairies: sometimes a challenge

Sometimes it takes as long to burn a 2 acre prairie as it does a 40 acre one. Today Kathie and I took photos while Rich Henderson and a skilled Prairie Enthusiasts crew did a prescribed burn at Koltes Prairie. Koltes consists of two high quality prairie remnants that were recently purchased by the Natural Heritage Land Trust as part of a major acquisition in the Town of Westport.

The goal today was to burn a 2-acre piece of this prairie that is situated in the midst of a larger remnant. Although fire breaks had been mowed, it was essential to keep the fire line contained by creating black lines all the way around the 2-acre piece. A large pumper unit was available, but most of the control was done with backpack water sprayers. Although the wind was relatively light, and the humidity not too low, it was a challenge to keep the fire lines contained. The crew had to move slowly, and used lots of water to keep the fire line straight and sharp. The whole burn took 1 1/2 hours.

Because this was a relatively late-season burn, early-growing species such as bird's foot violet and shooting star will probably be considerably suppressed. However, late-season prairie species should do well. Among others, this prairie has large amounts of prairie gentian, rattlesnake master, prairie dropseed, lead plant, and white prairie clover. Because of the well planned burn program, it is virtually brush free.


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