DuPage Forest Preserve conducting prescription burns this spring
In an effort to clear potential hazard areas and prevent fires from destroying the natural habitats of local animal and plant species, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has dispatched specially trained crews to implement the use of prescription burns in areas of the county.
Prescription burns are deliberately set and controlled, and therefore are used as a tool to manage natural resources. The district has used these burn methods for over 35 years, allowing them to restore many native area woodlands, prairies and wetlands.
“We conduct prescription burns partly to remove invasive exotic plants so fire-tolerant native species can use a greater share of available resources,” Erik Neidy, the district’s director of natural resources, said. “But the fire also breaks down organic plant materials, which speeds the return of valuable nutrients to the soil. It prevents a buildup of plant debris, too, which can stunt new growth and keep rainwater from filtering through the soil.”
Prescription burns are usually done in the early part of spring, before new vegetation grows out, and in the fall after most vegetation has died. On average, the district burns about 2,000 acres a year.
“It’s important to understand the difference between a prescribed burn and a wildfire so you know what’s behind the smoke when you see it,” Joe Cantore, president of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. said.
Cantore also explained that for safety and other reasons, burns are only conducted under the proper weather conditions, and the district cannot schedule them in advance. Signs will be posted on the morning of a prescription burn, and local fire protection agencies and nearby residents will be notified. Crews always remain on-site throughout the entire burn process, which takes place only during the day.
Residents can learn more about how prescription burns help protect the environment and actually see a burn in progress, weather permitting, at the “Introduction to Prescription Burns” seminar on April 10 at St. James Farm. Registration information is available at 630-933-7248.
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