The Nature Conservancy, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Local Fire Districts, and Thurston County have plans to cooperatively burn several South Sound prairie preserves starting in late August and running through September and early October, to reduce fire hazards and restore the prairie ecosystem.
The fires will be carefully managed by trained Nature Conservancy crews with support from DNR and local fire districts, who will have necessary equipment and supplies on site to safely conduct each burn. “When planning these controlled burns, safety of the community is our first consideration,” said Mason McKinley, the Conservancy’s Thurston County project manager and a trained firefighter.
Controlled burns will be conducted only when weather conditions are safe and favorable, taking into account temperature, wind, and humidity, McKinley said. In planning, fire managers watch weather forecasts seeking favorable conditions ahead of time. Once they arrive at the site, they take measurements for relative humidity and wind and weather conditions, then perform a small test burn to see if the fire is acting as predicted. Once the controlled burn is underway, they continue to monitor wind and temperature and test for humidity every hour.
The Conservancy and its partners have been conducting controlled prairie burns in the Thurston County area since 2001 as part of an ongoing effort to steward and restore the fire-dependent prairie ecosystem that once dominated the Thurston County landscape, and to reduce fire hazards by reducing built up brush. Such fires help return nutrients to the soil and keep nonnative plants at bay.
“The native prairies essentially evolved with fire,” McKinley said. “Our South Sound prairies are beautiful, wide-open places—places with a remarkable diversity of wildflowers, birds and butterflies. Fire is essential to this diversity and to the prairies’ ecological health.”
Depending on safe and favorable weather conditions, about 10 burns are planned during the coming weeks. Sites include: Thurston County’s Glacial Heritage Preserve; Department of Natural Resources’ Mima Mounds and Rocky Prairie preserves; Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Scatter Creek Wildlife Area; Wolf Haven; and The Nature Conservancy’s Tenalquot Prairie. Many of the burns will be small, designed to study fire’s effects on habitat. The largest planned burn will be 60 acres at Glacial Heritage.
Reporters interested in covering this year’s controlled burn program should contact Mason McKinley at (360) 584-2538.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
(206) 436-6274 firstname.lastname@example.org or Mason McKinley,(360) 584-2538