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Fire Management

Prescribed Fire at Seney NWR

Prescribed fires, like the one shown here, are used by land managers to help keep a variety of ecosystems, including forests, healthy.

  • It's Only Natural

    A View of the Pine Creek North Wildfire

    Wildland fire has been a formative force on the landscape of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for millennia. Fires periodically reduced dead and overgrown vegetation, recycling nutrients back into the soil. There could be no native prairies of the Great Plains, no duck-laden wetlands of the Prairie Potholes and no oak forests of the East without fire. Wildland fires in the Greater Manistique Swamp set the successional stage of the vegetation back. This reduces fuel loads, promotes healthy forest structure, and opens wetlands. The fires promote habitat for native species such as the yellow rail, American bitterns, sharp-tailed grouse, sandhill cranes, and white-tailed deer. 

  • Putting Fire to Work at Seney

    Firefighters at Seney NWR

    Seney National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of a rich mosaic of wetlands and forest. Each year, a variety of these habitats are burned using prescribed fire.

    Conducting prescribed fires in wetland areas may seem difficult, yet lush, green sedges and forbs will burn much of the year. The fires are primarily carried by the litter accumulation from past years growth. Amphibious fire engines are used during prescribed fire operations in the wetlands. These machines are capable of driving on land and "swimming" in open water. Their wide tracks and low ground pressure minimize impact to the habitat by reducing compaction of the soil. An average human footstep when walking produces 21 pounds of pressure per square inch, while the amphibious vehicles generate a mere 1.0 to 1.3 pounds of pressure per square inch. As the vehicles travel, they mat down the vegetation, wetting it in the water below. This wet vegetation can then be used as a fire break to help keep the fire contained.

    As more people choose to live in rural areas, safely managing fire on the natural landscape is becoming more important. Each prescribed burn has its own plan and within the plan a specific prescription for the fire. Experienced and qualified fire managers track weather patterns and environmental conditions to target the fire to a specific window of opportunity. The targeted window allows a fire to be conducted safely, to minimize smoke impacts and meet management objectives. The plan is reviewed and approved on several levels before the prescribed burn is conducted.

Page Photo Credits — Prescribed Fire at Seney NWR - USFWS, Pine Creek North Wildfire - Sara Giles/USFWS, Firefighters at Seney NWR - Sara Giles/USFWS
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2014
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