Spring/Summer Burns

It’s that time of year again!  Time to get ready for our annual burning!

Actually, it’s not so much exciting as it is necessary— and hard work. A lot of thought, planning and preparation go into our annual ―prescribed burns, as they are called.  They are incredibly important in helping us restore and maintain various sections of Kishwauketoe.

Why Burn?

Fire was a part of the natural process that caused our native plants to evolve and adapt to this area.  Just several hundred years ago, when Native Americans lived here, and prior to European settlement; prairie, wetland and woodland fires were quite common. Lightning was a frequent cause, but native Americans also purposely set fires to create better grazing grounds and to help them in their hunting.  Consequently, the ecosystems and their plant communities that existed here for thousands of years were accustomed to, and thrived on, occasional fires. A big part of our mission at Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy is to restore and maintain the land. Fire is an efficient, natural and integral process that helps us accomplish this mission.

With the help of the Williams Bay Fire Department, and with the cooperation of the Village, we have managed to conduct a number of burns over the years, including burning a good portion of the woodlands.  This helps remove overgrown woody plants, such as Honeysuckle and Wild Raspberry, along with invasive plants like Garlic Mustard, all of which overly shade the forest floor hindering the natural resurgence of native wildflowers, especially in the spring.  We have had exciting success from past burns in the woodlands with a proliferation of Jack-in-the Pulpit, Wild Geranium and May Apple.  Again, burning goes a long way in helping us restore and maintain beautiful Oak and Hickory woodlands.

Burning in the spring kills or sets-back the non-native cool-season plants because they have already started to grow.  This encourages the native warm-season grasses and forbs, which are still dormant in the cold soil, to grow by allowing the spring sunshine to warm the soil once this other vegetation is burned-off.  This is a very tried-and-true process, and has served us well.

As you can see, prescribed burns, as they’re called, are very helpful in our restoration and maintenance work.  If you would like to be helpful give me a call (245-6188) if you’re   interested in volunteering during one of the burns.

– Donald Skalla, from 2009KNC Newsletter