Control burning / Prescribed burning is used throughout the Crex Meadows Wildlife Management Area to restore and maintain the brush prairie environment. The management tries to maintain a schedule to burn an area once every 4-6 years, contingent on drought conditions in the meadows at the time (we dont want to accidently burn down the whole place!).
For many people, the idea of lighting fires to promote a healthy environment runs contrary to what seems logical for a healthy prairie, forest, or other natural setting. My experiences with Crex Meadows is the only major and continuous example of what happens to an area where this process is used in a continuous cycle. Here are some examples of before and after.
This burn area is located on the north side of the road, across from the Zulliger Flowage marker. The picture was taken in April, 1998.
Most of the prescribed burning in Crex Meadows takes place in April and May. These months offer the best conditions for undertaking a burn. Around 80% of the burns occur in the spring but when conditions are right, September can offer additional opportunities to burn areas that need it but were not burned earlier in the season, or are carried over from a previous year.
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This picture of the same burn area was taken in early September, 1998 and shows much of the recovery in the 5 months since the controlled burn occured.
Many grasses have grown, seeded out, and have died, leaving the tan stalks as the reminder of their existance here earlier in the year.
Golden Rod are blooming in the foreground with their bright yellows shining loudly.
Closer to the bottom edge of this picture, in front of the Golden rod, several types of (unidentified) plants are growing well.
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This same piece was burned again this spring (2007). Some of the plants which were blooming in May include Birdfoot violets, Spiderwort, Hoary Puccoon, and others.
The image to the right is a Hoary Puccoon growing in this burn area. Picture taken June 1, 2007.
There were many Canada Mayflowers blooming in this burn area on June 1, 2007
The Birdfoot Violet also did very well even with the dry conditions that developed in May this year. You can see the withered leaf condition on May 18th when this photo was taken.
Here is a photo of the same area taken June 6, 2007 approximately 2 months after the most current control burn. I hope this page has shown how controled burning / prescribed burning is beneficial to the Crex Meadows environment.