Ecological burn planned at Mt. Pisgah today, Oct. 4

Ecological burn planned at Mt. Pisgah today, Oct. 4
Posted on 10/04/2021

Lane County Parks, in cooperation with the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah, as well as Rivers to Ridges partners, will be conducting an ecological – or prescribed – burn at the Howard Buford Recreation Area (HBRA) today, weather permitting. The ecological burn will help enhance prairie and savanna habitats within the park.


“Howard Buford Recreation Area supports one of the largest remaining blocks of prairie and oak habitats in the Willamette Valley, and fire is a regular and natural part of the environment of these habitats,” said Lane County Parks Natural Areas Coordinator Ed Alverson. “We work closely with Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority and our Rivers to Ridges partners throughout the area to make sure the burn is safe and will not disrupt the community.”


Lane County parks and partners have been conducting more than a dozen prescribed burns in HBRA since 1999. Ecological burns are always dependent on weather. If postponed, an update will be provided to the community by notification to the media.


For the safety of park visitors, the following trail closures will be in place during day of the ecological burn: 


Spring Box Closures:

·        Trails in the North Bottomlands and on adjacent hillsides (Trails 3, 7 and 17) will be closed

·        The main summit trail (Trail 1) and Arboretum trails will not be affected by the closures


Visitors to the park should be aware of localized smoky conditions and the presence of fire crews within the park during the burn.  


Why the County conducts ecological burning:


Ecological burns are an essential management tool to sustain and expand native plant communities in these rare Willamette Valley habitats. The Willamette Valley was once dominated by savannas and prairies rich with diverse grass and wildflower species. These now-rare ecosystems require regular disturbance, such as fire, to maintain native species and to prevent conversion of open prairie to a closed woodland or forest. Historically, disturbance was provided through regular intentional burning by Native people or ignition by lightning. Many of our native prairie wildflowers, such as camas and Bradshaw’s lomatium, have evolved with fire for thousands of years and flourish after a site is burned. 


Ecological burns in the park’s prairies accomplish several biological and fire safety goals including improved seed germination, removal of built up thatch, and short-term soil fertilization.  All of these factors help native, grassland species thrive, including the declining Western Meadowlark (Oregon’s state bird), which nests in prairies and other open grassland habitats. In addition, prescribed burns protect the open prairie structure, as well as reduce the future risk of wildfires through the removal of standing, dead vegetation.