Friday, September 21, 2007

The Wetlands are Burning!

For the first time in two years prescribed burning is taking place in the West Eugene Wetlands! On Thursday morning, over 140 fire fighters from several agencies gathered at Meadowlark Prairie overlook to begin the project. Implementing these prescribed burns is a year-long process that requires applications and permits from LRAPA and tremendous planning on the parts of the West Eugene Wetland partners. In order to carry out these burns, weather conditions must be precisely right: wind blowing to the south-east, no cloud cover and high humidity.
Historically the prairies were burned regularly by the Kalapuya people to ensure stable populations of their most important food crops, primarily camas. Today, wetland scientists burn the prairies for a variety of reasons. Many of the native plants in this area have evolved with fire and are adapted to grow back quickly after a burn. Fire also helps to reduce invasive plant cover, such as pennyroyal and reed canary grass. Scientists are hoping to plant native nectar plants in one of the newly burned areas for the Great Copper butterfly, a native butterfly that was recently "re-discovered" in the West Eugene Wetlands.
Several sites in the West Eugene Wetlands and around Fern Ridge Reservoir have already been burned this season. On Thursday 24 acres were burned on the west side of Greenhill Rd., 15 acres at the Willow Creek preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy, and 120 acres of the West Fisher unit by Fern Ridge, owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Fire fighters began burning at Meadowlark Prairie but the burn was shut down when the wind changed direction. On Friday, around noon, they finished the Meadowlark Prairie burn then headed to the end of Royal Avenue to burn there. They hope to complete burning at Dragonfly Bend sometime in the next week, as well.

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