December 2020 Stew News
As 2020 comes to a close we are thrilled with the achievements we were able to accomplish during a challenging year. Thank you to dedicated volunteers and supporters that helped us achieve many predetermined tasks.
We would like to wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season. Happy New Year!
All ecosystems depend on disturbance to complete their functional cycle. Most notably prairie ecosystems thrive on disturbance to set back succession. Succession is defined as the evolution over time of the composition and structure of a biological community.
Vegetation community changes occur in many ways, both positive and negative. With past land use that has mostly fragmented and degraded Southeast Wisconsin’s habitats, we see unmanaged lands invaded by non-native woody species like buckthorn, honeysuckles, and autumn olive.
With an increase of invasive species, we start to see a significant decrease in diversity and overall health of these systems. This results in these systems being less productive for pollinators and wildlife species – with fewer places to eat and live. Hence, OWLT is committed to managing land in the best interest of nature. One way to achieve this, locally in Wisconsin, is by utilizing prescribed fire.
The Forest Service defines prescribed/controlled burning as:
“any fire intentionally ignited to meet specific land management objectives, such as to reduce flammable fuels, restore ecosystem health, recycle nutrients, or prepare an area for new trees or vegetation. Controlled burning is a management tool that when used under specifically controlled conditions will help land stewards manage forests and rangelands for multiple use.”
(learn more at: fs.usda.gov)
photos from Riverbend Preserve
The reasons that the OWLT stewardship team utilizes prescribed fire as a management tool is to accomplish the following key management tools:
1. Manage prairie habitat by:
killing woody vegetation (setting back succession) and
increasing diversity (more sun to soil contact, less initial interspecies competition, fire-induced germination).
2. Clearing grassy vegetation for seeding of native prairie or trees.
3. Providing a natural process to improve ecological health.
When regular fire intervals are applied to a prairie landscape encroaching newly established woody species are killed. Perennial prairie plants are not harmed during this process. In fact, diversity of plant species will often increase after a fire. This benefits the many species of wildlife that rely on a prairie habitat. This is especially true for pollinators that depend on native wildflowers as a food source.
At one time, fire was a naturally occurring process, occurring at regular intervals creating high-quality prairie habitat. Today, land managers use this historically natural process in a controlled and safe setting to achieve management goals. Lots of planning goes into a prescribed fire to ensure a safe and effective outcome. Factors that are taken into consideration include wind speed and direction, lifting height, relative humidity, burn breaks, and more.
With systematic management plans, such as prescribed fires, we are committing to be stewards working towards the health of nature.
photos from Forest Beach Migratory Preserve
"I had the great opportunity to be involved in the OWLT controlled burn at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. It was a fantastic experience to witness the beauty of all four elements coming together to achieve a goal. The interaction of fire working with the earth for the benefit of managing sustainable prairie health was obviously evident. With the fuel of air, with each gust of wind, to keep the fire moving forward and the interjection of water, provided by volunteers, to control the path of the burn. This organized partnership between the elements overseen by the expertise of the OWLT stewardship team was a wonderful experience in which to participate. Thank you to the OWLT team and to the supporters that make it possible to protect the health of nature in Ozaukee and Washington Counties."
Please consider learning more about these and
other management tools by becoming a volunteer.
Workdays from 9am-Noon on the following dates:
Thursday, January 14th
Tuesday, January 26th
Thursday, February 11th
Tuesday, February 23rd
The number of volunteers per event is restricted and all activities are pre-register only. Contact Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in registering.
In order to minimize the potential for infectious transmission of COVID-19, OWLT requires that staff, board and community members, participating in OWLT activities, adhere to state guidelines found at Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
SUPPORT the HEALTH of the PRESERVES
Be part of the team promoting the health of the preserves in 2021. OWLT is committed to the mission of "preserving the water resources, natural areas, and working lands of Ozaukee and Washington Counties."
Our efforts improve the water quality of our lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands, protect and enhance wildlife habitat, and preserve the scenic and open spaces that define our rural landscape.
SUPPORT - Conserving Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs
To make a forever-lasting difference in our community is a rare opportunity. The Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs acquisition is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to preserve 131 acres of Lake Michigan land to support community well-being, provide wildlife habitats, and protect nature’s health. Supporting the protection of this land today is a legacy that will last forever!