Archive for Friday, April 18, 2008

Fire set to rejuvenate wetlands

Baker University junior Kyle Ruona, Baldwin City, makes his way through the Baker Wetlands, igniting the tall grass during a controlled burn Thursday. The ash carbon produced by the fire helps many plants by acting as a natural fertilizer.

Baker University junior Kyle Ruona, Baldwin City, makes his way through the Baker Wetlands, igniting the tall grass during a controlled burn Thursday. The ash carbon produced by the fire helps many plants by acting as a natural fertilizer.

April 18, 2008


Controlled burn cleans up Baker Wetlands

Portions of the Baker Wetlands are being burned off as part of a maintenance project by the property's caretakers. Enlarge video

Baker Wetlands Burn

Baker University faculty and students participate in the annual burn of the Baker Wetlands. Enlarge video

On Thursday morning, humans took over the duty that nature used to perform at the Baker Wetlands.

Professors and students from Baker University conducted a controlled burn on 200 acres of mostly prairie grass along the south side of the nature preserve.

"Many of these plants are helped by fire because fire was a natural phenomena on the prairie," said William Miller, assistant professor of biology at Baker. "Mostly it was from lightning strikes."

Miller and a few students majoring in wildlife biology worked with Roger Boyda, chairman of the biology department, in conducting the burn. The burn is done about every year in certain sections of the wetlands, which are mostly southwest of Haskell Avenue and 31st Street.

"When you burn the excess material, such as dead leaves, you convert it to ash carbon," he said. "It gets rained on and percolates into the earth as a natural fertilizer."

The fire caused a smoky haze in the southern Lawrence sky and sent an ashy smell into the air. Conditions were "just right" at that time. The fire burned itself out by afternoon.

"We probably smoked up the town pretty good," Miller said.

The Baker professors checked with police and fire departments before conducting the burn. They used portable kerosene packs to set the fires and then watched to make sure the burning didn't get out of control. Several portable water packs were available to wet down places that were not to be burned.

"It's really simple. We teach the kids how to do it," Miller said. "They get the experience."

The fire also drew the attention of the Coopers hawk, a species that otherwise isn't seen much at the wetlands.

"They seem to be attracted by smoke," Miller said. "Almost every time they burn, they see them here and other times they are scarce."


moo 9 years, 9 months ago

If you don't light these controlled fires, consumer, then they will happen naturally and without control. That is bad and results in burned property. And yes, the fires also are good and pretty much necessary for the flora.

Eric Neuteboom 9 years, 9 months ago

And somewhere, Doug Compton sits and quietly weeps at the glory of the fire...

cowboy 9 years, 9 months ago

You need to burn off prairie grass to keep it healthy , you wait till it just begins to grow , they did it at the right time this year as grasses have been a bit late coming on due to the cold spring.he ducks are fine , there have been some really pretty wood ducks out there the last few weeks.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

"No i am talking about human interference in the natural order ."Actually, there's evidence that Native Americans, pre-European invasion, regularly started prairie fires to maintain the grazing range for bison and other game, and to stampede the herds in their hunts. Humans have always been and always will be part of the "natural" order. It just remains to be seen whether our actions will lead to our own extinction, in addition to the thousands of extinctions of other species our actions have already caused.

Jcjayhawk1 9 years, 9 months ago

All hail the SLT! I curse the man made wetlands. I need to get to K-10 from the west side of town in less than 20 minutes.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 9 years, 9 months ago

I hait vironmentlists. Thay ar stupit. I no the better thin tham due. I ar smarder...obveeuslee.

Confrontation 9 years, 9 months ago

Note to the LJ-World: That's Roger Boyd, not Boyda.

LLSR1234 9 years, 9 months ago

As I drive by the wetlands, it looked to me like most of the babies were out playing in the water. Eating and diving, etc. Maybe there will be another hatching later or something?I'm no 'vironmentlists', but I'm betting that they were able to get away. I've also seen lots of them east of the wetlands in that runoff creek. I think there were lots of places for them to get away. My concern has been the dead baby ducks along the county roads that get hit by cars!

LLSR1234 9 years, 9 months ago

much eye rolling So I typed it out too fast! I'll call in my editor next time to look over my submission before posting, (not this time, next time). more eye rolling

kmat 9 years, 9 months ago

Considering that the chairman of the biology dept at Baker was in charge of this controlled burn and that It is a violation of federal law to disturb the eggs, nests, or raise ducklings of all wild ducks without first obtaining the necessary permits, I am sure that they followed the law and inspected the area for nests. They are trying to insure the wetlands are productive, not harm the creatures that live there.And to the idiots that always make comments about how "it used to be corn fields" and "shorten my commute because I'm greedy and selfish", keep in mind that the wetlands are designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service (since 1969). There are only 5 NNL's in KS and so many of you want to destroy one of them. That is what's wrong with this world - no one cares about anything but their own selfish needs.

Ceallach 9 years, 9 months ago

Someone please explain the logic of this endeavor. All we've been hearing is that we must preserve the wetlands. They want to keep it in a natural state, but since nature didn't send enough lightening to burn it off they needed to take kerosene (for crying out loud) in and burn it themselves. Totally illogical. "chairman of the biology department at Baker" is not equivalent to Mother Nature.

Bill Chapman 9 years, 9 months ago

You know why wild fires are so bad in California? Because humans started putting out the fires that used to burn off the dead plants (leaves, limbs, grass, etc.). Now all nice combustible material has built up in layers. Where it used to burn off quick, it now can burn for hours (sometimes days), thus starting the LIVING plants on fire. Then all those nice 6 and 7 figure homes (built near the treeline for good views and higher property values) get to burn as well. Guess nature can take care of the human infestation with or without our help.

cowboy 9 years, 9 months ago

This is pretty simple , if you want to keep your stand of natural prairie grass healthy and thriving , you burn it off each spring , it removes the 4-5 foot stalky growth from the prior year , releases seeds , kills off many of the weeds/ this doesn't burn the reed areas or the wet areas of the wetlands. If you have any knowledge of the wetlands you'll know this is just a few of the grass areas. The smoke goes up the animals hunker down or move and all is well.

Matt Needham 6 years, 9 months ago

The best way to understand what is going on is to take some time to visit the wetlands in all seasons. It goes through a lot of seemingly drastic changes throughout the year, yet the animals and vegetation always adapt and seem to be doing quite well, as long as they stay away from the paved roads. Go out this week and see what it looks like recently burned. Then come back in a few weeks, and see how fast the grass has regrown. It'll be back to four feet tall within two months. I'm sure a few animals don't escape the fire, but in general they are like us and flee or seek cover when they see a wall of flame approaching. The fire comes and goes extremely fast; a specific location burns off in a few seconds. From the bones revealed after the fire it's obvious that winter is much more harsh. More rodents will die being eaten by hawks and owls in the week or so they are left without cover than from the fire itself. The new plants quickly reclaim the bare ground, and it all starts over again. Also remember that much of it is too wet to burn.

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