DuPage To Begin Spring Controlled Burns To Protect Native Plants

Bernie Tafoya
March 15, 2019 - 1:55 pm
DuPage To Begin Spring Controlled Burns To Protect Native Plants

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Crews could be out in DuPage County Forest Preserves as early as the middle of next week doing controlled burns to get rid of invasive plant species.

According to Erik Neidy, natural resources director for the DuPage County Forests, controlled burns are very effective at getting rid of invasive or exotic plants from Europe, Asia and elsewhere. 

The DuPage County Forests notes that controlled burns are not to be confused with uncontrolled wildfires. 

“Our oak and hickory woodlands in the Midwest do not provide the same type of fuel to cause the wildfires we see in the news,” Neidy said. “Prairies and forests used to burn regularly and were essential to the American landscape before the land was developed with homes and farms. We are bringing fire back to safely recreate what nature once did on its own.”

They're beneficial to native plants.

"The difference between invasive and the exotic species - they typically have shallow roots where the native plants have very deep roots so what happens is, the fire is hot enough to kill the invasive things, but the prairie plants love the fire and are not effected by the heat as it moves across the landscape," Neidy said.

Last fall, it was so rainy and conditions were so wet that crews were not able to do even one controlled burn in DuPage County. Neidy said it’s possible that crews could make up for lost time this spring.

"It’s pretty weather dependent. If we get a solid two weeks of nice warm, dry weather, we usually can make up some ground and accomplish some of those burns we didn’t get in the fall," he said.

Neidy said during the fall of 2017 and the spring of last year, crews were able to do 95 controlled burns covering nearly 2,500 acres. While the burns get rid of non-native plants, they help things like wildflowers and prairie grasses.

Neidy said with some good, dry weather prescribed burns in DuPage County woods could start by the middle of next week. 

The district sends out cards to residents who live near woods where the burns will take place that, sometime in the fall or spring, controlled burns will be going on and to let the district know if they or someone in their household suffers from breathing difficulties. That way the Forest Preserve District will let those residents know ahead of time when burns will be taking place.