Spring burn season underway to restore wildlife habitat

managed fire at New Amsterdam Grasslands
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Levi Plath

The land management crew from Mississippi Valley Conservancy will be conducting prescribed burns on several Conservancy-owned nature preserves from April 1 until May 15, 2022, weather permitting. Their focus will be primarily on the following properties:

  • Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area (near Ferryville)
  • Holland Sand Prairie State Natural Area (near Holmen)
  • New Amsterdam Grasslands (near New Amsterdam)
  • Tunnelville Cliffs State Natural Area (near La Farge)
  • Wilton Hemlocks (near Wilton)
  • Kickapoo Caverns (near Wauzeka)

These burn areas range in size from 8 to 235 acres. The objective of the managed fires is to discourage invasive plants and woody brush that compete with native vegetation.  

The burns may take place between now and May 15. Exact times and dates are to-be-determined, as very specific weather conditions are needed to ensure safety and meet objectives. The objectives of the burns are to improve wildlife habitat and control weeds.   


For safety and effectiveness of the burns, the Conservancy requests that members of the public and media avoid the burn sites when smoke is seen or reported in the areas noted above. Media who wish to see and report on the burns are asked to contact land manager Levi Plath to make arrangements. 

 [email protected] or by phone at 608-784-3606 ext.5


About Prescribed Burns

The planned burning of large tracts of land is essential to manage some habitats and control unwanted and invasive woody brush such as buckthorn, honeysuckle and prickly ash which allows for more sunlight to contact the forest floor resulting in better regeneration of oak trees that serve as habitat for many species, including whitetail deer, turkeys, migratory songbirds, and over 550 moth and butterfly species. Prescribed burns also help to establish native prairie plants that help to protect our food and water by feeding beneficial pollinating insects and holding soil to prevent run-off. The health of the native habitat in these areas will be much better off for many years as a result of these burns. Prescribed burns also reduce the risk of wildfires.

Prescribed burns are planned to achieve specific objectives – oftentimes simulating the benefits of natural fires that occurred on the landscape prior to European settlement over 200 years ago. Burns are conducted typically in the spring and fall by highly trained Conservancy personnel along with volunteers from the Wisconsin DNR and other qualified organizations on Conservancy managed areas, given appropriate weather conditions and in cooperation with the proper authorities and local units of government.

Before a burn is conducted, the experienced Conservancy fire staff studies the area and carefully develops a burn plan to maximize the desired effects of fire while assuring safety procedures are in place. The burn plan is essentially the "prescription" for how to conduct the burn safely while accomplishing the management objectives. The burn plan focuses on minimizing the effects of smoke on neighboring properties and communities, and also ensuring that the fire stays well within the established perimeter through the use of specialized firefighting equipment. Although the plan is reviewed and approved well in advance, the actual burn must get a final approval the morning of a burn after Conservancy fire staff go over a rigorous go/no-go checklist. If conditions are not favorable, the burn can be canceled at any time. When developing the plan for all burns, we carefully consider all conditions to minimize the burn’s impact on the surrounding area. Prescribed burns are conducted under strict supervision with experienced staff and the Conservancy has been conducting prescribed burns in SW Wisconsin for over twenty years.