Bur Oak Land Trust currently maintains and preserves eleven local natural areas for the enjoyment and education of the public. These areas are managed in part by the Trust’s Property Stewardship Specialist, volunteer property stewards, volunteers, and community organizations. Volunteers play a crucial role in maintaining and preserving our properties.
Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks on Trust properties including: prairie burns, invasive species removal, trash clean up, trail maintenance, planting native species, and harvesting prairie seed, to name a few. We have various workdays throughout the year to provide everyone the opportunity to volunteer on a Trust property. Bur Oak Land Trust also needs help in the office with mailing, publications, community relations, and events. If you wish to volunteer, we can find something for you, no matter what your experience. Interested in helping with property burns? Fill out this form: Burn Crew Info Form
If you are part of a group or organization and would like to schedule a volunteer day, we would love to hear from you!
For workdays on the properties, contact Jason Taylor at jason@BurOakLandTrust.org or call 518-925-871 three.
Thank you to Big Grove Brewery for supplying wooden nickels to reward our workday volunteers!
Fifteen years before Michael Pollan became famous for Omnivore’s Dilemma, he published his first book entitled Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education. In Second Nature, Pollan chronicles his relationship with gardening by examining the seasonal aspect of the work. Instead of thinking about the beginning of the garden season as when the seeds are planted and the end when the last harvest takes place, Michael encourages the reader to embrace the “off-season” as a time of reflection, as well as planning and dreaming of what comes next.
The mid-to-late winter season is a perfect time for not only pouring over the latest Seed Saver’s catalog, but for planning and prepping the next season’s burns as well. Prescribed fire is to me as gardening is to Michael Pollan. Most land managers start the fall with an extensive list of units they want to burn, and as weather conditions and crew numbers allow, acres are burned and the list gradually gets smaller. Depending on the management goals, units that aren’t burned in the fall can often be pushed back into winter. Dormant season, is, after all, dormant season.
The (overly-simplified) common wisdom is that fall fires are good for forbs, and spring fires are good for warm-season grasses. The reality is generally more complicated and requires the land manager to prioritize many factors. For instance, if you have a prairie with low forb diversity but lots of invasive multiflora rose, should you burn in fall to stimulate forbs, or spring to suppress multiflora rose? As long as all safety protocols are followed, neither are necessarily wrong, but there can be impacts to both. For instance, fall burns can lead to erosion on unstable sites over the winter, as well as drier soil conditions.
Understanding the trade-offs to burning during various seasons and the impact to overall management goals is critical. At the same time, we have to remember that Iowa ecosystems evolved with fires that weren’t planned. Given the reduction in overall fire in the last 100 years, any prescribed fire that is conducted in a safe manner is better than overthinking the situation and never burning.
Here’s a video Jack Dickens put together of drone footage of an O’Mara-Newport burn and shots from volunteer workdays – with music by Elizabeth Moen. I hope this inspires you to get out and volunteer!