We are entering prescribed burn season for our area, which runs from February to April. We hope to conduct five burns on conserved land in 2024.
Wildfires have occurred in nature far before humans were present. Though fire can be expansive and dangerous, it is also a natural and healthy part of the ecosystem, and can be an effective and efficient way to work with land. Prior to colonization, indigenous people used fire to clear land, grow crops, and raise animals.
The benefits of fire can still be achieved today. A major goal of prescribed burns is to promote healthy landscapes by clearing understory, recycling nutrients, uncovering dormant seeds, and even decreasing tick populations. Dead brush, leaf litter, and invasive species are burned away to clear land for native plants to thrive. Burning allows nutrients to enter the soil much faster than if left to naturally decompose. This process promotes soil fertility, which supports new vegetation. The native species can now germinate in this opened space, restoring the native ecosystem.
How Are We Using Prescribed Fire?
The Catawba Lands Conservancy is planning to conduct prescribed burns at five sites this season. Buffalo Creek has been a 10-year project for our prescribed burns, and is also a recovery site for 800 endangered Schweinitz’s sunflowers planted there in 2021. The Schweinitz’s is a fire-dependent species, so regular burns will help it germinate and reproduce. You can learn more about this Preserve and the Sunflowers with this article: One Year Later: Schweinitz’s Sunflowers at Buffalo Creek Preserve. Other burn sites are Coley Preserve and Jackson Blackjack Preserve, which both contain unique species that have thrived because of burns.
Once a site is selected, much of the time after is spent watching the weather until the optimal conditions are met for the burn. On the morning of the potential burn, if the temperature, soil moisture, wind direction, etc. are favorable, then we move! Safety is of utmost importance when it comes to a fire, so we have all hands on-deck monitoring the site during and after the burn.
Prescribed burns are an integral part of keeping landscapes healthy and safe. Burning away potential fuel drastically reduces the destructiveness of a naturally occurring fire, which can save property and lives. Invasive and non-native species can be effectively and efficiently removed to make space for native species to germinate. This all goes into supporting a healthy and safe landscape.