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Prescribed Burning: A resource used to maintain diversity in local Grand Rapids Fen.

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Many of you may be surprised to know that Grand Rapids is home to a unique natural feature called the Lamberton Fen.  A fen is a type of wetland that usually dominated by grasses and sedges and it is home to a wide array of various flora and fauna. The Lamberton Fen is one of the many nature preserves protected and managed by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. “By far Lamberton is the smallest and most urban nature preserve we manage, but it is truly a hotspot of diversity.” says Justin Heslinga, Stewardship Coordinator for the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. Lamberton Fen is located in Grand Rapids’ north east side tuck behind a residential area.

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On Wednesday, September 16th at around 2:00pm, overseen by a team of five prescribed burn professionals and wildland firefighters, the scheduled prescribed burn was lite and quickly burnt through this small fen. The main fuel source was dried sedge and there were several areas where unique or protected species were avoided. The use of fire is a natural way to combat invasive plants and woody species from taking over this rare ecosystem.

An ancient practice, prescribed burning has been used by farmers, foresters, and many other natural resource professionals. Pre-agricultural societies used fire to regulate both plant and animal life. Historic fire studies have documented periodic wildland fires that were ignited by indigenous peoples in North America as a way to regenerate the earth and soil. In modern times, prescription burning and fire management is a science that is managed and performed by trained professionals. Fire managers closely watch and evaluate many things when planning for or performing a prescribed burn, such things include: fuel types and loads, temperature, humidity, wind direction, wind speed, and smoke dispersal.

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To learn more about prescribed burning and fire management in our State visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fire Management webpage. Also to learn more about nature preserves like Lamberton Fen in our area visit the Land Conservancy of West Michigan webpage.

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