I made a trip down to our Rulo Bluffs Preserve last week. I wanted to get down and see the results of the prescribed fire we conducted earlier this spring. We’re in a restoration mode at the site, trying to re-open the woodland and increase the amount of light hitting the ground. The day we burned the site this spring, the relative humidity was very low, so the fire was a little hotter and burned a higher percentage of the unit than we’d seen in previous burns. Killing small trees and brush with a nice hot fire was good for our objective. On the other hand, I worried a little that we might have cooked some of the bigger trees we wanted to keep.
Overall, I was very pleased with what I saw last week. The fire, combined with some recent “hack-and-squirt” herbicide treatments on smaller trees has done a great job of increasing the amount of light hitting the ground. At the same time, the majority of larger trees were still alive and leafing out, maintaining a fairly complete canopy – but one that allows for mottled light to hit the ground throughout the day. We hope to continue annual, or at least very frequent, fires for the next several years to set the woodland back on the trajectory we want. Then we may back off on the fire frequency a little. Eventual success will be measured by whether we see an increased abundance of wildflowers, sedges, and grasses on the woodland floor, and – more importantly – regeneration of oak trees, which is crucial for the survival of the woodland itself.
Here are some photos of this year’s spring fire, as well as what I found during my walk through the site last week.