Wisconsin DNR Using Controlled Burns to Maintain Prairie Habitat

The Douglas County Wildlife Center uses controlled burns to maintain the land.

GORDON, Wis.- It’s the beginning of burn season for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Pending the right weather conditions, the DNR has just a small window of time to reset some of the state’s prairie lands and make the space livable for certain wildlife.

This kind of land is called pine barons. It’s a type of habitat that’s locally common but globally very rare.

“This was historically burned on a three to five, maybe seven year location, before white people came here just from the wildfires and even the native Americans would burn these areas for the response of the wildlife and game they hunted as well as the blueberry crops,” wildlife biologist Greg Kessler said.

Before infrastructure was introduced, the wildlife in the bird sanctuary, as it’s known– plants like prairie grasses– relied on fire to grow.

“When we burn, it releases them and it releases nutrients and they grow very well for a period of time then they go dormant again,” Kessler said.

It’s also home to a number of different bird species.

“Obviously here we’ve got roads, we’ve got neighbors, we’ve got the airport not too far away and we have to look after conditions that put the smoke in the right direction,” Kessler said.

The DNR has only a small window of time to conduct the controlled burns.

Weather is a big factor in maintaining the habitat safely.

“There’s a whole host of entities that are trying to maintain this assemblage of plants and animals for perpetuities so that it’s not just us enjoying it, but future generations can enjoy this as well,” Kessler said.

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