Why We Burn

One question that comes up whenever the topic turns to prescribed fire is, “Why should I burn my property?” It seems complicated and dangerous; beyond my capability as a private landowners.

Much of Wisconsin was prairie and oak savanna. These landscapes were among the most productive and diverse in the world. Occasional fire was absolutely critical to maintain that incredible diversity. That is why they are considered to be fire dependent natural communities. Grasslands occur on every continent, except Antarctica. Like forests, they play an important part in sequestering carbon while supporting much wider variety of plants and animals. In The Untold Story of Grasses from a group called Sustainable Human videographer William Bond tells the story of their importance to our planet and the important part fire plays in maintaining them.

Truth is that burning safely requires a fair bit of knowledge and preparation. However, if you are willing to invest some time learning, the payback is huge. While fire can be used as a restoration tool on any size plot from a few dozen square feet to many square miles, it relative value increases with the size of your property. The amount of equipment and people needed to burn forty acres is pretty much the same as forty acres; just a little more torch fuel and another hour of crew time.

Organizations like the Prairie Enthusiasts, Madison Audubon and Nature Conservancy help people gain the knowledge and skills needed to use prescribed fire. They train volunteers to help them burn property their properties. For those who are not physically capable of burning their property or cannot assemble enough help to do it safely, private companies are available to burn your land for you. These firms are typically booked a year or more in advance, so plan ahead and start working with them early. Most provide other services like site assessment, restoration planning, brush clearing, woodland thinning, planting and herbicide treatment. The Wisconsin DNR has a list of Wisconsin Restoration Contractors most or whom do prescribed burns.

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