Prescription Burns Benefit Forest Preserve Habitats
(March 1, 2017) — Specially trained crews from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County have begun conducting prescription burns at select sites in District preserves.
The District has used the deliberately set, controlled, natural-resource management tool for more than 35 years to restore native prairies, wetlands and woodlands. Prescription burns generally take place in in early spring before new vegetation emerges and in late fall after the season’s vegetation has died.
Because safety depends on the weather and other factors, the District cannot schedule prescription burns in advance. However, on the morning of a prescription burn, the District posts signs and notifies local fire departments. Specially trained crews remain on the site throughout the process, which takes place only during daylight hours. If these factors are not present, the public should call 911 because they may be witnessing a wildfire.
“Prescription burns remove invasive, exotic plants so fire-tolerant native species can use a greater share of available resources,” said Erik Neidy, District director of Natural Resources. “But fire also speeds the return of valuable nutrients to the soil and prevents a buildup of plant debris, which can stunt new growth and keep rainwater from filtering through the soil.”
A more in-depth look at prescription burns is offered at “Introduction to Prescription Burns,” a free all-ages program that will be offered April 9 and 16 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn and April 16 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville. The program will explain the how, when and why of the District’s prescription-burn program and show a burn in progress, weather permitting. Register online or by calling 630-933-7248.
Those interested in learning more about prescription burns can also watch a video featuring the District’s burn crews in action.
“Prescription burns help us keep our forest preserves healthy for native prairies, wetlands and woodlands,” said Forest Preserve District Commissioner Marsha Murphy, District 1.
In DuPage County’s woodlands, prescription burns remove invasive vegetation so more sunlight can reach native wildflowers and other plants on the forest floor. The county’s forests primarily contain deciduous species, such as oaks, with thick bark that is well-adapted to periodic fire and able to keep flames near the ground. These conditions contrast those in the dense coniferous forests of the West, where an overabundance of flammable materials enable fires to burn at extremely high temperatures and spread uncontrollably from treetop to treetop, as often reported in the news.
“We appreciate the public’s cooperation and understanding during our prescription-burn process,” said Forest Preserve District of DuPage County President Joe Cantore.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 4 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 145 miles of trails, five education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube pages.
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