Prescribed fire is fire applied under specific conditions, in a defined area, to achieve specific resource management goals. Fire is an extremely beneficial tool in the sustainability and management of prairies and woodlands. Historically, our landscape is no stranger to fire. Both naturally occurring fires and fires set by Native Americans produced a diverse landscape. A mix of prairie, savanna, forest, and wetlands benefited from intermittent fires.
Fire rejuvenates a prairie in many ways, including:
Removing the excess leaf litter and duff allowing more plants to flower, produce seed, and grow taller
Increasing available nutrients through indirect stimulation of microbial activity in the soil and releasing nutrients from the ash
Exposing the darkened soil and allowing sunlight to warm the soil quicker and extend the growing season for warm season native plants
Suppressing many weeds and non-native invasive cool season grass like brome and reeds canary grass
Damaging or killing many woody invasive plants such as bush honey suckle and autumn olive, which, if left unchecked, can quickly over take a prairie
Maintaining natural habitats that some rare species rely on for survival, such as several species of butterflies and reptiles
The Linn County Conservation Department conducts prescribed fires throughout the year in many of its areas. Generally, prescribed fires are conducted on a 2 to 4 year rotation, with portions of the prairie left unburned to allow a refuge area for wildlife. Prescribed fire is one of the resource management tools used to preserve and perpetuate what little prairie and savanna we have left.