Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Celebrating Spring with a Prairie Burn {Spring Valley}



A few weeks ago, we attended a prescribed prairie burn at Spring Valley in Schaumburg. Normally, the thought of a fire storming through the open prairie may be a frightening thing for those in its path. However, an event like the one at Spring Valley really gave us a rare glimpse of natural forces that help to keep our prairies vibrant and full of life.
Why do prairies need burning?

So, why burn the prairie? Prairie burning is a necessary and healthy process for the ecosystem. The fires do not harm resident prairie grasses that have long, deep roots. The fires instead help to eliminate invasive species such as woody trees. Additionally, some seeds are actually activated by fire. The charred vegetation remains add rich nutrients to the soil. The fires restore open areas that some bird species prefer. Growth is stimulated thus sparking rejuvenation in the ecosystem. Without burns, prairie may be eventually overtaken by brushlands and forests thereby reducing the land available for prairie species.


Enjoying a prescribed prairie burn:

Native Americans recognized the importance of prairie burning in maintaining a thriving ecosystem. Today, prescribed burns can be used to promote vitality in the prairie ecosystem while avoiding the dangers of wildfires. We were fortunate that the prescribed burn at Spring Valley was done in a way that we could be part of it and witness this awesome event!

During Spring Valley's event, families got together for a picnic. Then, staff explained to us how the burn would take place and why a section of prairie is burned each year. They even showed off all of the equipment! When it was time, we were told where to stand so we would be safe. The burning began and I have to say it was really a powerful event and quite a way to celebrate life and nature!


The whole event happened fairly quickly. We found it neat to feel the warmth of the fire. However, we did get a bit of a dusting with the ash! Maybe we should have kept those sunglasses on for the evening!


If you have the chance to go to a prairie burning, I highly recommend it. What a great way to welcome Spring and the rebirth that we see all around during this season! The event not only reinvigorates the environment but can also reinvigorate the spirit! We had a beautiful night to remember!

For more information on prairie burning, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has an informative brochure. The Ohio Prairie Association also has a nice explanation of the prairie through the seasons.

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