Anoka-Ramsey Community College (ARCC) will conduct a controlled burn on the west side of the Coon Rapids Campus, next to Pheasant Ridge Rd., between April 5 and 30. The exact day of the burn is dependent on favorable weather conditions. Once the date of the burn is known, it will be posted on the Anoka-Ramsey Community College web site (www.AnokaRamsey.edu). Residents near the Campus may notice visible smoke during the burn.
Controlled burning is used in prairie restoration to minimize woody vegetation, stimulate seed production and recycle nutrients. The controlled burn at ARCC is part of a project to restore more than three acres in an existing Natural Area to a native plant area. Once complete, the area will be half prairie and half oak savanna, a type of grassland with scattered oak trees.
The first stage of the restoration process occurred in December 2006 when most of the trees in the area, except some oaks and a few other species common in oak savannas, were cut down. The controlled burn is considered the next stage. The final stages will be application of herbicide to control unwanted growth and the planting of native prairie species.
Assisting with the project is Prairie Restorations, Inc. (PRI), from Princeton, Minn. The company has designed, restored and managed prairies, wetland, woodland and other native plant communities for more than 25 years. In 2006 alone, their crews completed approximately 200 controlled burns, totaling more than 3000 acres. In conjunction with the Coon Rapids Fire Department, PRI will coordinate the burn at the Coon Rapids Campus.
The Coon Rapids Campus Natural Area is used by ARCC Biology Faculty members to instruct students. Controlled burns will be performed periodically at this site in future years to maintain the prairie.
For further information, please contact Prairie Restorations, Inc. at 763-389-4342 or the ARCC Maintenance Department at 763-433-1213.
More About Native Prairies and Controlled Burns
According to ARCC Biology Faculty member, Joan McKearnan, less than one percent of Minnesota's original prairie remains today but chunks of land are being converted back into native grasslands, and fires are an integral part of that conversion.
"Fire suppression and agriculture contributed greatly to the loss of prairie habitat," McKearnan continues. "Fire was an occasional, natural phenomenon before European settlement. Fire helped to rid prairies of woody vegetation, stimulate seed production and recycle nutrients. Fires were either naturally ignited by lightning or set by Native Americans wanting to enhance habitat for their main food item-bison. During European settlement, fertile prairies were cultivated and, what wasn't plowed, succeeded to forests due to fire suppression and removal of bison which had also helped maintained the prairies. Today, fire is used as a vital tool in the restoration and maintenance of prairies. They are typically performed in early spring or late fall when the vegetation is of proper moisture level."
Watch for more information on the restoration of native areas at both Anoka-Ramsey Community College Coon Rapids Campus and Cambridge Campus.