Prescribed Burns Restore Northwoods Habitats Submitted: 03/29/2012
WOODBORO - Smoke billowed into the sky in the Northwoods this afternoon and a massive fire blazed.

But it was all according to plan.

We joined local naturalists today for forest maintenance of a different kind.

Hundreds of years ago, fire was a natural process in the forests and open areas of northern Wisconsin.

But today, local naturalists light intentional fires called prescribed burns to fill the void.

"Plant species that exist here have co-existed and evolved with fire over hundreds of years or longer," says Jeremy Holtz, DNR Wildlife Biologist. "The species that experience fire in the north actually benefit from it."

The DNR, Oneida County, and the Forest Service teamed up to set fire to this part of the Oneida County forest near Woodboro.

Today's burn at Spruce Lake, just west of Rhinelander, is about five acres. It will help to restore the natural habitat.

"We want to get this site into a little bit more native and thicker grass type and to kill the current vegetation that is here and to get it prepped for the seeding of this site," says John Gillen, DNR Forester-Ranger.

The wetlands and grassland surrounding Spruce Lake will get something of a makeover from the burn.

But these fires aren't just for the plants. Wildlife benefits as well. That's especially true for certain waterfowl native to the Northwoods.

"Black ducks and ringneck ducks that are found most exclusively in northern Wisconsin will benefit from this as well," says Holtz.

On top of the environmental benefits, it's also a job perk for these naturalists.

"Fire season's a fun time of the year," says Gillen. "We don't get involved with prescribed burns every year, so it's nice when everything comes together and we can make it happen."

Story By: Ben Meyer

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