What a wonderful day immersed in nature! OaktoberFest came together beautifully – we forged ahead under partly cloudy skies (it never rained!) Volunteers planted 40 oak trees, 35 native shrubs, 2 witch hazels and a gorgeous redbud! All with the dulcet tones of Jazz du Jour in the background.
Seeds were harvested from a variety of native plants, sorted from the chaff and will be used to further the restoration of Far Field and Pederson Preserves.
A barrel of acorns was no match for Mary – she and her team sorted out the viable nuts and even found some that were already sprouted! We hope to have a crop of “homegrown” oak saplings ready for planting next spring.
Special thanks for making this oak savanna stewardship day a success to: our superstar volunteers, Barrington District 220 students, Barrington Breakfast Rotary, the BACT Board, our tireless partners:
Garden Club of Barrington
Davey Tree Experts
Bluestem Ecological Services
Prairie Thunder Tree Services
Majestic Oaks Nursery
Jazz du Jour
and, of course, our constituents throughout Barrington that make it possible for us to do this rewarding restoration work.
Stunning photos by our volunteer photographer extraordinaire Lindsay Guido!
Prescribed Burns 101
Hey, that field is on FIRE! Yes – and that is a good thing. BACT uses prescribed burns at our preserves on a regular basis. These burns rejuvenate a native landscape by managing weeds, restoring nutrients to the soil and more!
Plant and animal species on most lands evolved with fire. Ecosystems require fire at different intervals to thrive as a productive wildlife habitat. There is no ecological alternative to fire. Charcoal carbon can only be produced by fire and is integral for soil ecological health.
Fire minimizes the spread of pests and disease in an ecosystem. In prairies, fire kills or sets back encroaching woody vegetation and rejuvenates the native grasses by allowing more sunshine on these sun-lovers. The blackened soil absorbs sunlight, warming it and promoting seed germination.
What happens if we don’t burn?
Without recurrent fire, ecosystems are more vulnerable to the effects of invasive species, climate change and wildfires. Plant material such as last year’s dead grasses builds up over time and creates dense mats that can be very flammable and suppress new plant growth. Wildfires can rage out of control, as we have seen all to often in the news. Prescribed fires are one of the most important tools used to manage fire risk. According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the current level of prescribed burning is not adequate to meet the ecological needs of natural landscapes.
Making a plan
Prescribed burning under planned conditions can emulate the ecological role, function and effect of natural fires while maintaining a measure of safety for surrounding communities. Burning at certain times of the year protects nesting areas and optimizes plant growth by returning nutrients to the soil.
This past spring at BACT’s Pederson Preserve, the Sandhill Crane nesting pair that comes in every year beat us to the draw. They flew in before we had an opportunity to burn and so we guided the fire around the stand of grasses they chose to nest in. We will adjust our stewardship plan for the future – that is invasive reed canary grass that we need to eliminate!
In many cases, new growth appears within a couple of weeks after a burn. Many species of plants, trees and grasses actually thrive with stimulation from fire and smoke.
Above is Pederson Preserve after this spring’s burn – see the stand of brown grass on the left? That’s where the Sandhill Cranes were nesting. The first image below is one week later. The second image is in September. See any evidence of fire? Actually – yes! The lush growth is evidence of the nutrient-rich soil and healthy ecosystem.
When is BACT’s next burn?
The rule of thumb is once every three years per the Oklahoma State University fire research. Thus, the BACT stewardship plan has the next prescribed burns scheduled for 2022 at Far Field and we may conduct a small follow up burn to take care of that reed canary grass patch at Pederson.
Interested in burning?
If you are wondering if your land can benefit from a burn, contact BACT and we can connect you with some local experts. Please do not attempt burns yourself – this is something you must leave to the professionals. If you are looking for a new adventure – fire careers can be rewarding – visit the US Fish & Wildlife Service for more information.