Rx fire at Crow’s Nest Preserve

March 26, 2023

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.

Prescribed fire in progress at Crow's Nest Preserve

Photo: Daniel Barringer

On the first day of Spring this year we held a small prescribed fire of a meadow at Crow’s Nest Preserve. Conditions were just right for the safe and effective use of fire to manage this area to encourage native meadow grasses and wildflowers. Without some intervention this area would undergo a process of succession from field to forest.

Neat border of an area of prescribed fire next to mowed meadow

Photo: Daniel Barringer

Fire more closely mimics a natural process than mowing, a technique we use in the intervening years between a particular meadow’s burn. Normally we try to burn every year somewhere at Crow’s Nest, though occasionally weather doesn’t accommodate us. Any one meadow gets burned on about a five year rotation—though with the pandemic and associated challenges it’s been seven years this time around for this one, located just north of the Chief’s Grove on the yellow trail loop. Above and below, you can see adjacent meadows that were mowed, as well as other areas left untouched this year.

Drone photo of area burned in prescribed fire of meadow at Crow's Nest Preserve

Photo: Daniel Barringer

It’s worth noting that prescribed fire, like prescribed grazing, is both one of the oldest and newest land management techniques. Fire has been employed successfully for thousands of years by Indigenous people to create and maintain specific habitats; it’s also only been in the last few decades that the last few centuries of fire suppression is now being recognized as damaging to some habitats.

Interpretive sign about prescribed fire in front of and area where there was a recent prescribed fire at Crow's Nest Preserve

Photo: Daniel Barringer

Today, just six days after the burn, green shoots are coming up in this field. We put up a temporary interpretive sign to explain to visitors what they are seeing: the intentional and careful use of fire to manage land to benefit native species.