Prescribed Fire Management

The majority of Wisconsin’s native tree species, such as oak and pine, have tremendous wildlife, aesthetic and economic value. It is for these reasons County Forest managers go to great lengths to not only maintain certain tree species within their forests and the broader landscape, but also to promote regeneration of certain species for the future. One way to accomplish these goals is with the use of prescribed fire, which as a management tool continues to gain importance on County Forests.

Controlled burns are used to rejuvenate native grass openings, prepare for natural tree regeneration and assist species which struggle to naturally regenerate on their own, benefiting both wildlife and silviculture. When used in conjunction with other forest management strategies, forest managers can mimic conditions in the forest understory that allow shade intolerant species, such as oak, to outcompete shade tolerant tree species. Fire also helps control unwanted tree and shrub competition allowing seedlings to sprout back in their place and exposes bare mineral soil where acorns and other seeds are able to germinate successfully. Without fire, some ecosystems naturally succeed to closed canopy conditions and shade tolerant species, such as red maple, gain a competitive edge over those other important species.

As the needs are presented to regenerate or maintain timber types or other plant communities, Counties examine the costs and benefits of each opportunity. Increased regulations, the County’s cost of completing the burn and the risk of breakouts and uncontrolled fires is considered, along with any benefits of vegetation management, through prescribed burning. In addition, forest managers are specifically trained in conducting prescribed burns on the landscape, many times in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Prescribed burns take several months of planning and are only implemented when the necessary protocols, safety measures, weather conditions and permits are in place. All prescribed burning is done in accordance with Wisconsin State Statutes 26.12 & 26.14, the DNR Prescribed Burn Handbook 4360.5, and in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources.

For more information on using prescribed fire in Wisconsin, visit the DNR