This past holiday weekend, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal to the site of one of the numerous “prescribed burns” being implemented this spring by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. According to the Department, “prescribed burns are planned to achieve specific objectives – oftentimes simulating the benefits of natural fires. The burns are conducted by highly trained DNR personnel in designated state-managed areas during appropriate weather conditions and in cooperation with the proper authorities and local units of government. Public safety is a top priority during all prescribed burns. Prescribed burns are used to:
- Enhance wildlife habitat.
- Help with forest regeneration.
- Restore and maintain native plant life.
- Control invasive plant species.
- Reduce the risk of wildfires.”
In this instance, the burn represented the continuation of past efforts to maintain a grassy plain in an area of western Luce and eastern Schoolcraft Counties known as the Danaher Plains. Although the Danaher Plains area is likely best known for its well-traveled ORV Trail, such opening management practices have served as a significant aid in the restoration efforts of sharp-tailed grouse in this portion of northern Michigan.
From a personal perspective, it was impressive to witness how precisely those involved in managing the fire could define the area to be burned. It was as though they were coloring using a black crayon and didn’t go outside the lines on this vast, tinder dry opening. Air surveillance continued both during and the days after the treatment.
It was also exciting to see this commitment to maintaining a diversity of wildlife habitat at a time when we had feared that the competition for limited financial resources would have made it far easier to merely let such places regenerate as forest lands. This is likely just one more example of how the recent hunter/angler license restructuring package and the associated funding it has been allowed to capture represents a long term reinvestment in our public landscapes.