Tom's Blog

Monday, April 29, 2013

Large wetland burn

On Wednesday April 24 the major wetland burn that we had planned for this year was accomplished.

Wetlands are not common in the Driftless Area, but there is a fairly large one attached to Pleasant Valley Conservancy. This five-owner site of 132 acres is in the East Blue Mounds Creek drainage and receives water from Elvers Creek, Ryan Creek, and Pleasant Valley Creek, all of which are cold-water streams. (Elvers Creek is a well-known trout stream.) There are also numerous springs rising within the site.

In 2005, at our urging, a program to rejuvenate this wetland by occasional prescribed burns was initiated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. However, after the 2010 burn, F & WS pulled out of the program. Realizing the need for continued burns, the Savanna Oak Foundation took over financial support. Those participating in this year’s burn were Tom Wise (burn boss), Dan Wallace (assistant burn boss), Jim Elleson and crew (Quercus Land Stewardship Services), and the crew of Michler/Brown LLC. Also participating was Amanda Budyak from Pleasant Valley Conservancy.

With this spring’s challenging weather, and the need for a large experienced crew, finding a suitable day for such a complicated burn was a problem. Fortunately, there was a brief window of suitable weather on Wednesday April 24, 2013 and the burn was done.

The burn unit is shown on the attached map.

The burn unit involves five property owners. It is bounded by Dane County Highway F and Pleasant Valley Road.

The burn was started in the NE corner in an area of lush sedge meadow. Budyak photo

The principle fuels were cattail and sedge meadow. Extensive interior lighting was done to ensure good coverage. Budyak photo

After the burn. View up the valley from the lookout atop Pleasant Valley Conservancy. Only areas with open water did not burn.

Visitors have an unequaled opportunity to see the results of this burn. The trail along the Crane Prairie is right next to the burn unit and connects with the boardwalk that leads to the Pleasant Valley Creek trail (visible as the unburned strip along the creek in the photo above). This trail forms a loop that leads back to the main trail near the Valley Prairie. Sandhill cranes and Canada geese are frequent visitors, but there is other wildlife, including many wetland species.

Our urge to burn must have been infectious. The following weekend much of the wetland upstream from our site was burned by other landowners and neighbors!


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