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Controlled or “prescribed” burns were used by indigenous people for centuries before Europeans arrived here. It is an effective ancient art and science that promotes both fire resiliency and biodiversity.

Last year’s prescribed burn of about 30 acres at Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve was a huge success, ridding the park of noxious invasive species and allowing for native wildflowers to stretch out.

Through a host of partners that include prescribed fire professionals, fire agencies, and air quality agencies we are prepared for another scheduled burn on May 21, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. This activity is carefully planned, managed and takes tremendous focus and many skilled hands to accomplish. Several factors could postpone or cancel the event.

Controlled burns not only make way for native plant communities they also help protect against wildfires by removing excess flammable vegetation and managing invasive plants.

Some non-native plants are not eaten by the cattle brought in for summer grazing so continue to grow and spread. Medusahead, for example, is an invasive grass that creates a thick layer of persistent, flammable thatch that smothers native grasses and wildflowers and has a prickly seed head that cattle avoid. The prescribed burn in 2020 gave us a good start at reducing Medusahead and other invasives and this year’s burn will continue that fight.

Sonoma Ecology Center has worked with the 162-acre Preserve’s landowners since 2004 to manage its meadows, grasslands, oak woodlands and riparian habitats. We hope that land management such as this will serve as practice of the future for our region and beyond.

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