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Willa Cather Memorial Prairie Burn

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie Burn

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Willa Cather Foundation is proud to announce the completion of a prescribed burn on the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. As part of an extensive restoration project funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Willa Cather Foundation burned 200 acres of the 608-acre Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. The Red Cloud Volunteer Fire Department facilitated the burn on April 18 & 19.

In just one short week, new vegetation will emerge in the burned area. Approximately two weeks after this occurs, cattle will be introduced to the pasture in order to graze the new growth. This form of pyric-herbivory promotes heterogeneity across the landscape, which is required for diverse plant and wildlife communities. The benefits of prescribed patch-burning include the reduction of noxious weeds, promotion of a diversity of native plant species, creation of diverse habitats for animal species, and increased nitrogen availability in the soil.

Two additional 200-acre burns are scheduled to take place over the next two years. This is especially significant because up until the recent burn, the Prairie hadn’t seen a prescribed burn in over fifteen years.

In 2006, the Nature Conservancy deeded the Prairie to the Willa Cather Foundation in order to restore and conserve the rare native grasses, plant life, and wildlife of its delicate ecology. Already, the Willa Cather Foundation has removed over 6,000 non-native trees, fenced natural springs in order to secure their longevity and usefulness, cut hiking trails for visitors to use for education and recreation, and introduced rare plant species such as Fremont’s Clematis and Butterfly Milkweed. The completion of a prescribed burn is the most recent step in the Foundation’s restoration efforts.