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Fire an important tool in Riverway management
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The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board extended management permits for seven State Natural Areas (SNA) when it met last Thursday in Muscoda. The action was taken following a report from Matt Zine, SNA ecologist.
Much of Zine's work includes a combination of prescribed burns and man-ual killing of locust and black oak, such as is being done in the Gotham Sands SNA.
"There's just too much canopy in these areas," Zine said. "When you're restoring these barrens, fire is not enough. You have to do a harvest too."
Zine has been restoring State Natural Areas in the Riverway for the past 12 years, attempting in many cases to restore the prairie oak savannahs native to this region prior to European settlement.
"Fire is not a perfect tool; it can spur herbaceous growth, but we've learned a lot in the past 12 years," Zine said. "Snorting fires ripping up hillsides is not what we're looking for. It's intense, but you may be killing trees you don't want to kill."
In addition to the Gotham Sands, the Riverway Board also extended permits for the Arena Pines, Mazo Barrens and Blue River Bluffs between Boscobel and Blue River on Highway 133, which has traditionally been burned in the spring.
"We know that this part of the state was largely open prairie and savannah, and we know fire was im-portant on this landscape for thousands of years," Zine said. "This area evolved with fire and it played a very significant role here."