Controlled Burn Tests Eco-Benefits of Fire

May 30, 2017

Dry grass burned readily, but spread gradually during the controlled burn at Bouverie Preserve Tuesday morning.
Credit Bruce Robinson / KRCB-FM

That plume of smoke rising from the Bouverie Preserve near Glen Ellen late Tuesday morning was a carefully watched experiment in applying a land management technique that goes back thousands of years.

The fire took about three hours to burn across the designated 17 acre area. That was ample time for any affected wildlife to leave the area or take cover underground, says ACR Fire Ecologist Sasha Berleman, while deer, when they return, will find a more hospitable landscape.

The low flames swept through areas with scattered green growth leaving that behind while devouring the dried grasses that predominated.
Credit Bruce Robinson / KRCB-FM

The passing flames left the hillside mostly blackened, but studded with patches of green, that didn’t burn. But the long-term results of the controlled burn will not become fully apparent for month to come, observes Jeannie Wirka, ACR’s Director of Stewardship.

Urbanization, with its networks of highways and fences, means that controlled burns such as this one must now be confined to relatively small areas. But even within those lands, says Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federal Indians of the Graton Rancheria, the present-day ecosystem is very different from those managed by the native people of this area several hundred years ago.