National Park Service fire crews plan to conduct two prescribed fires on the American camp prairie and another on the southwest slope of Young Hill between September 11 and mid-October, weather permitting, announced Superintendent Lee Taylor.
The American Camp fires will target a half acre north of the Redoubt Road and 4.5 acres on the south slope and immediately below the Redoubt. They will restore habitat for two rare prairie species: the island marble butterfly (Euchloe ausonides insulanus), a federal species of concern; and golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), also a threatened species. The park successfully cultivated golden paintbrush last winter.
The Young Hill fires are slated for the unit running from south of the English Camp cemetery to the Sandwith orchard along West Valley Road. Prescribed fires in several units over the last decade have been especially beneficial to the Garry oak woodlands on the southwest slope, Taylor said.
“The island marble butterfly population is dwindling and American Camp is their final stronghold. We have to take steps now to improve and expand habitat for these creatures or they will not survive,” said Taylor. Fire creates the right growing conditions for the mustard plants the butterflies depend on, she said.
No road closures are anticipated, although a few trails in the immediate vicinity of the prescribed fires may be closed for a short time during the burns. Prescribed fire and caution signs will be posted along road ways and trails near the projects. For safety, park visitors are urged not to stop along the roadway or enter the area while burning operations are being conducted.
To prepare for the burn, the fire crew will mow a buffer zone around the boundary of the intended burn area. This fire line will be wetted down prior to ignition to contain fire to the burn area. Adequate crews, equipment and water resources will be positioned to control the burn or to quickly extinguish it if necessary.
"It has been a dry summer and fires have been in the news throughout the West," Taylor said. "We will only proceed with the prescribed burns once fire danger has lessened and I am certain we can contain the fire within the burn area."
Prescribed fire is one of the primary tools in the park's long-term program to reestablish portions of the diverse native grassland once found on the American Camp prairie and Young Hill slopes, Taylor said. Although remnants of the native plant community exist, large areas have been invaded by non-native plants, in part as a result of farming, as well as the exclusion of fire, used by native peoples before the arrival of Europeans. Fire reduces the amount of organic material and eliminates non-native seeds, which enables native plants to hold their own against non-native species.
"Reducing the fuel levels will aid in restoring desired conditions for native species like golden paintbrush," Taylor said.
The use of fire as an aid to prairie and Garry oak restoration is an activity identified in the park’s approved fire plan. To view the plan, visit the park website at www.nps.gov/sajh/parkmgmt/firemanagement.htm
For questions or comments please contact Taylor at 360-378-2240, ext. 2223 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or: Jerald Weaver at 360-378-2240, ext. 2224, email@example.com.