Controlled Fire Used As Training Opportunity and to Restore Prairie Remnants at Deer Valley Golf Course
Rare butterfly and other plants and animals will benefit
BARNEVELD, WI | May 05, 2014
Controlled fire on prairie remnants at Deer Valley Golf Course, Barneveld, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Deer Valley Golf Course.
The Nature Conservancy and the Barneveld Fire Department recently completed the first of two controlled burns at the Deer Valley Golf Course. The second burn will be completed as soon as this week as weather allows. With more area landowners expressing interest in using fire to restore their land to a more natural condition, the burns provide the fire department with additional training opportunities.
The burns will also help restore prairie remnants at the golf course for native plants and animals, including the rare regal fritillary butterfly.
“Without fire, prairie remnants can become overgrown with brush and invasive species, which push out the native grasses and wildflowers,” said Eric Mark, Nature Conservancy land steward. “Fire helps set back the brush and invasives and stimulate the native species, including violets, which regal fritillaries need to survive.”
Regal fritillaries—large, bright red-orange butterflies with black markings—are an endangered species in Wisconsin and rare across their entire range in North America mainly due to loss of habitat. Regals are strong fliers and need large expanses of prairie and other grasslands to thrive. Their caterpillars eat the leaves of violets, including birdfoot and prairie violets, and the adults feed on milkweed, asters, bergamot and other native prairie wildflowers.
Before Europeans settled in Wisconsin, about 10 million acres, or one-third of the state, burned on a regular basis. Many plants, animals and native habitats like prairie are fire-dependent and need fire to thrive.
The Barneveld Fire Department is conducting the controlled burns with assistance from The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy and other landowners in the area use carefully controlled burns to help restore and maintain the health of prairies and other fire-dependent habitats.
Deer Valley Golf Course, which opened in 1999, has about 40 acres of tallgrass prairie remnants interspersed among and around the fairways. The golf course has been working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and local volunteer Mark Mittelstadt since 1999 to manage the remnant prairies, which provide habitat for regal fritillaries.
“We have some of the best prairie in Wisconsin here at Deer Valley Golf Course, and we have a responsibility to maintain this unique aspect of the golf course,” said Todd King, PGA Professional/ General Manager. “The partnership with the fire department, The Nature Conservancy, Mark and the Wisconsin DNR helps us manage the prairie and also keep noxious weeds and other invasive plants out of the golf course.”
A coalition of partners including local landowners, The Nature Conservancy, The Prairie Enthusiasts, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other public and private entities have been working together for many years to protect grasslands in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area, a 95,000-acre grassland landscape in Dane and Iowa counties in southwest Wisconsin.
The agricultural history of the Military Ridge area, of which Deer Valley Golf Course is a part, has helped keep the landscape open and grassy, making it possible for plants and animals, which have disappeared in more developed parts of the Midwest, to survive. The area provides important habitat not only for regal fritillary butterflies, but for meadowlarks, bobolinks and other grassland birds whose populations are declining worldwide.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.