Shakopee Mdewakanton to Hold Prescribed Burns
Prior Lake, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community conducts prescribed burns on reservation lands each fall and spring as a prairie management tool. Burns are conducted after the snow melts, but before the grass is green to help manage invasive species and replicate natural conditions to encourage native species growth. A secondary benefit is to help prevent uncontrolled fires which can damage homes and businesses.
Prescribed burns are planned for approximately 275 acres in several locations on the reservation as early as late March and into April 2012. Additionally, two burns are planned for off the reservation. Because the SMSC has land management authority for the burial mounds at Shakopee Memorial Park, the SMSC plans to hold a prescribed burn of the five-acre oak savanna at the park just off Highway 101. Then at the request of the City of Prior Lake, the SMSC plans to hold a prescribed burn of the four-acre oak savanna/wetland complex at Lakefront Park north of Prior Lake.
The SMSC also has plans to burn these areas on the reservation this spring:
Pow Wow Prairie – Two acres along Dakotah Parkway near the SMSC Pow Wow rock sign
Wetland C-7 – Two acres southwest of the Public Works building along Dakotah Parkway
Wetland S-10 – Two acres south of Dakotah Meadows RV Park
Lucky Seven Prairie – 35 acres north and west of the Brewer subdivision between McKenna Road and County Road 83
Buffalo Pasture – 188 acres north of the Organics Recycling Facility along McKenna Road and County Road 16
Dockendorf Prairie – 20 acres on the old Dockendorf property along County Road 17/Marschall Road
O’Loughlin Prairie – 14 acres on the southwest side of the intersection of County Roads 83 and 42
Peterson Prairie – Four acres on the northwest side of the intersection of County Roads 83 and 42
Jeuerison Prairie – Five acres west of the Pow Wow Grounds
Wetland C-24 – 12 acres east of the Public Works Building and south of County Road 42
Staff from SMSC Land and Natural Resources and Mdewakanton Emergency Service trained in wildland firefighting conduct the burns along with staff from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
All prescribed burns are entirely dependent upon weather conditions. Prescribed burns have to meet specific weather requirements. Relative humidity, temperature, and wind speed and direction are considered among others. The fire will be “out of prescription” and not lit if any requirement exceeds plan limits.
A prescribed burn is an intentionally lit, low intensity fire used by land managers to replicate natural fires. Fuel reduction is one component of prescribed fire to reduce the risk of dangerous wildfires but the SMSC mostly burns for the ecological significance to our prairie restorations. Prescribed burns benefit natural communities by removing dead biomass, adding nutrients to the soil, releasing native seed banks, and killing non-native species. A benefit of prescribed burns is that they replicate natural processes which help some prairie species which need the high temperatures that only a fire can provide. This helps rejuvenate native prairie grasses and forbs which have evolved with frequent fire.
In a natural setting, a low intensity fire would burn prairies and prairie/wetland complexes on a three to five year cycle and sometimes annually. Fire prevention and suppression activities in today’s world leave most natural areas overgrown and susceptible to being invaded by non-native or invasive species.
“Suppression activities impact areas that would burn naturally if not for intervention by man. In the predominant culture today people think fire is bad because people build homes and business in areas that would traditionally burn naturally, but for the tribe, prescribed burns are more in line with how nature takes care of the land,” said SMSC Director of Land and Natural Resources Stan Ellison.
SMSC Land and Mdewakanton Emergency Services staff have conducted prescribed burns on tribal lands since 2004. SMSC staff may also assist other reservations with prescribed burns if needed as well as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as it has done in the past.