The days are getting longer, temperatures are beginning to creep above the freezing point on the thermometer, and the sun is beginning to melt the deep snow-covered fields giving everyone a glimpse that spring maybe on its way. Meanwhile, natural resource professionals at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in New Richmond are busy preparing both fire equipment and wildland firefighters to assist in the spring controlled burn season. As soon as spring weather and ground conditions are favorable - late March-early June - fire management activities will be implemented on the landscape throughout the district. Burns are scheduled for 19 Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) in Wisconsin's St. Croix, Polk, and Dunn counties.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service improves wildlife habitat through the careful use of controlled burns on more than 400,000 acres of National Wildlife Refuge System lands each year. The Waterfowl Production Areas in St. Croix, Polk and Dunn Counties are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Why do we burn, you ask?
Controlled burning is used as an essential tool for both land management of critical habitat for healthy and diverse plant and wildlife populations as well as reducing hazardous fuels throughout the wildland urban interface. Controlled burns rejuvenate and encourage native plant communities throughout fire dependent ecosystems to maintain the plant species that provide the specific nutrients needed by wildlife that reside in those spaces. Invasive plants are set back by the fire, meanwhile the results of burning increase nutrient components entering the ecosystem. The native plants are then able to more successfully compete with ever increasing non-natives growing on the landscapes.
Periodic burning of vegetation adjacent to private landowners lowers the fuel loading on wildland areas, decreasing the threat to private land in the event of a wildfire. Controlled burns prove to be a key component for landscape restoration on tallgrass prairie, wetland, and oak savanna lands historically found throughout the St. Croix Wetland Management District, at the same time reducing the impact of wildfire throughout the surrounding communities.
All of our fires are carefully planned and we take great effort to cause as little inconvenience to local residents as possible. We prefer to burn when the prevailing winds carry smoke away from homes and busy roads but this becomes more difficult as more homes are built adjacent to your public wildlife areas. Despite our best efforts, smoke occasionally crosses a road. We are prepared with road signs and trained personnel to provide for public safety if smoke impacts a road.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact Bridget Olson, Project Leader at St. Croix Wetland Management District Office at 715-246-7784 Ext 112.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit fws.gov.