simplistic approaches

Shueyi at Shueyi at
Thu Sep 18 15:43:45 EDT 1997

 Diane asks several questions that I can provide answers for, some that I
can't - here's a run-down
  <hello john, and lepsers,
  <true, my single email comes across as amateur, unskilled, and awkward.
  <true, you are not aware of reintroduction grants such as i am
  <participant.  i only recently discovered this welcome private effort
  <myself this past week.
  <my words typed within the context of my ecological burns hindered the
  <major concerns and myriad questions i have regarding:

  <     1. maintaining high air quality for populations residing within
  < the habitat areas we protect and serve.  at some rotational point, it
  <seems we must utilize burns (which produce smoke) to provide the exact
  <conditions needed to maintain healthy habitat.
   <     2. reintroducing habitat and kbb in my northeastern illinois area
  <is, i sincerely hope, a valid effort due to kbb survivors located in
  <our illinois dunes state park,...zion, ill. usa

The last I heard, KBB records from the Illinois Beach complex were very
tenuous, and the state DNR asked that it not be included as a recovery unit
for the species.  KBB's may persist just north of the state line at the
Chilwaukee dune complex (Wisconsin) but populations there are very low
(perhaps extirpated).  ILL DNR has been managing the ILL Beach complex with
an eye towards possible KBB re-introduction, but has not formally requested
to do so (and probably will not until they see the recovery plan for the

  <   3.  burning even small zones of habitat in our area has become a
  <major clash with residents and activists.  question.   how do we as
  <stewards in habitat protect invertebrates, air/water, and human
  <populations?  protecting our mother earth grows more complex with each
  <new law and discovery of long-term impact upon us.  do we close our
  <eyes to safer, slower, less perfectly functioning methods?  or do we
  <ignore the possibilities?
Burning in highly urbanized settings does present problems.  Violating EPA
air quality standards is one which is pretty easy to deal with - you simply
ask for a variance.  On the other hand, you can not fill houses with smoke,
or blow smoke across major highways.  There is actually a pretty complex
science behind prescribed burning, including the issue of smoke management.
 In urban settings, you have to choose the conditions of the burn to provide
"lift" for smoke - literally you want the plume to go up very quickly.  You
achieve this by burning on fairly cool days (provides more lift for hot
smoke), low winds (less lateral pushing of smoke before it rises) and low
humidity (hotter  burn=less smoke to begin with).  In many cases, like in NW
Indiana where we manage a 140 acre site for KBBs that is completely
surrounded by housing on 3 sides and an interstate highway on the other, you
have to be very careful - and you m ay only get a single chance per year to
burn at such a site (we were not able to meet our pre-set burn conditions at
this site at all last year).  But when conditions are right, we burn within
30feet of houses and to within 50 feet of the interstate with out any

I should also note that all land-owners within .25 miles of the burn are
notified that we will be attempting to burn each season, and that we notify
law enforcement and fire departments on the day of the burn so that they are
not surpised by our activities.  We usually pull off 2-3 urban burns per year
in Indiana, and hope to pull off about 20 statewide this season (one burn is
already in and we have six months to get the remainder done).
The downside to managing smoke, is that it limits your options on the
ecological end of the fire.  For example, in oak savannas in Indiana, we have
been trying for very hot, fast moving head fires (fires that move with the
wind - contitions = low humidity, and a nice breeze).  This produces a fire
that is faily cool at groud level (because it moves fairly fast - it actually
leaves quite a bit of fuel on the ground), but has high flame lengths and
tends too top kill fairly large saplings.  Most importantly, it "limbs"
larger oaks (kills the lower limbs) which opens the canopy and allows more
light to hit the herbaceous vegetation.  Obviously we don't control smoke
very well under these condidtions, and having a fast moving fire in a
residential area makes me nervous (not to mention the people that own the

So we settle for slow moving "back-fires", fires that move against the wind.
 They are  cooler fires overall, but becuase the litterally eat their way
through the fuel (against the breeze), they are hotter at ground level and
they consume almost all the fuel - including KBB eggs.  But I can walk into a
backfire and put out a 30 acre burn in less than 15 minutes if we have to,
and in urban areas you want that level of control.

Based on my comments, it should be obvious that there is actually a science
behind prescribed burning, and that most fire crew leaders are trained not
only in saftey, but in the science of the whole affair.  In Indiana, all DNR
burn leaders are certified - that is they have attended about a month of
formal classroom and field training.  If you are interested, next week in
Wisconsin there is a week-long course devoted to smoke management.  (you must
be a certified burn leader to attend).

And lastly, I should note that burning is not a haphazard affair - at least
within the Conservancy.  Before the first flame hits a high biodiversity
area, we produce a site conservation plan (which details the processes and
ecological goals of a preserve) and then an Rx Prescription (if fire is
considered to be relavent to the site).  The presecription is just that - a
prescription.  You have to know what it is you are trying to achieve at the
site, and then under what conditions a precribed burn has to occur under to
achieve those results.  You have to specify how you will mitigate for
fire-induced mortality (as with the KBB), and how fire will be used with
other management at the site.  Once all these questions (and many others) are
answered, then you can go out and play with gasoline (if of course, all the
preconditions laid out in the prescirption for weather and fuel moisture are

  <     i am curious to see how other educators, entomologists,
  <lepidopterists, would procede re. burns, habitat and species
  <reintroduction, pollution,....
  <we are all,...simplistic or not, on this planet together.  i for one
  <remain eager to learn new methods.  i welcome replies.

Hope this helps
John Shuey

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