Ecological restoration staff at Conservation Halton has been busy planning throughout the winter, for a prescribed burn at Glenorchy Conservation Area. After several weeks of monitoring the weather, conditions are favourable for the prescribed burn to take place this Sunday, April 24, 2016. The burn is planned to commence around 1 p.m. and will be completed in two to three hours.
A prescribed burn is a deliberately set, carefully planned and controlled low severity fire which consumes ground level fine fuels such as dried leaves, needles, and small twigs, but does not harm larger trees. The practice is a widely used and recognized scientific method of controlling out-competing and non-fire tolerant invasive species, while allowing for growth and encouraged regeneration of the naturally occurring trees like oak and hickory, grasslands, and planted seedlings. After the burn, wildflower blooms will be abundant in the summer, as well as bird and pollinator populations who will use the new habitat.
The prescribed burn at Glenorchy Conservation Area will target the control of Common Buckthorn which is found in high numbers throughout the hedgerows. This invasive non-native species is a threat to the long term ecological restoration of the oak woodland and grassland areas of Glenorchy Conservation Area as it out-competes native species for space. This is the first burn for Glenorchy Conservation Area and will be 3.2 hectares (nearly eight acres) in size.
Residents living in the area surrounding Glenorchy Conservation Area have been notified with a prescribed burn notice in the mail. If weather conditions change, the media will be alerted of the burn’s cancellation.
A prescribed burn is in accordance with the Operational Prescribed Burn Plan and Master Plan for Glenorchy Conservation Area with the goal to maintain the 50 hectares of restored grassland habitat.
The new conservation area, which is not yet officially open to the public, will be closed to public access during the day of the burn. Glenorchy Conservation Area is managed by Conservation Halton and is owned by the Province of Ontario (Infrastructure Ontario).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Glenorchy Conservation Area?
Conservation Halton has partnered with the Government of Ontario to protect 263 hectares (650 acres) of environmentally sensitive land in North Oakville, and has named it Glenorchy Conservation Area. This area includes a large portion of government-owned lands known as the Oakville Land Assembly, bounded by Highway 407 to the north, Dundas Street West to the south, Bronte Road to the west, and Sixteen Mile Creek to the east. This conservation area forms an important part of the natural heritage system in Conservation Halton’s watershed.
The primary purpose of Glenorchy will be to preserve and enhance the natural heritage features of the lands such as creeks, valleys, and woodlots, and to restore some of the open area to unique habitats such as cultural meadows. Tree cover will also be increased with extensive tree planting.
What is a prescribed burn?
A prescribed burn is a controlled, deliberately set, and carefully managed low temperature fire that consumes dried leaves, small twigs and grass stems. It does not harm larger trees and is a recognized, scientific method of controlling invasive exotic shrubs and encouraging the establishment of certain natural and planted seedlings. Over the past several years at Iroquois Shoreline Woods, the Town of Oakville has conducted burns as part of the management of the oak woodland.
Why is Conservation Halton undertaking a prescribed burn in Glenorchy Conservation Area?
Native prairies and oak woodlands in our area have evolved to be fire-dependent as a result of wildfires and burning by indigenous peoples, hundreds of years ago. Natural disturbances, such as fire, rarely occur in Halton anymore, so agencies who work on restoration look to mimic these disturbances to maintain ecosystems. These burns benefit native plants and animals by removing exotic plants and grasses, by restoring wildlife habitat, and by returning essential nutrient balance to the soil.
Specific grassland communities such as prairie formerly occurred sporadically across much of southern Ontario. It is estimated that less than 3% of pre-settlement tallgrass prairie and savannah areas remain in Southern Ontario. The restoration of 50 hectares (124 acres) of grassland habitat at Glenorchy Conservation Area has reintroduced more native grassland back to the local area. Over the last four years, the open fields have been seeded with a mix of prairie grasses and wildflowers.
What about smoke coming from the burn?
Under the weather parameters required to proceed with the prescribed burn, the smoke is expected to dissipate and should not affect surrounding neighbourhoods. However, it is possible that some smoke from the prescribed burn may reach some of the residential areas near Glenorchy Conservation Area. Individuals with asthma or high sensitivity to poison ivy or smoke may wish to limit their exposure by keeping windows closed or leaving the immediate area around Glenorchy Conservation Area on the day of the burn.
Who carries out the burn?
Lands and Forests Consulting Ltd. has been retained to plan and carry out the prescribed burn with a qualified crew. Conservation Halton staff will assist with the burn, and the Oakville Fire Department will be on site in a standby capacity. The Burn Boss with Lands and Forests Consulting Ltd. has expertise in the field of prescribed burning.
How long will the burn take?
It is expected that the burn in Glenorchy Conservation Halton will take several hours to complete, but last only one day. After completion of the burn, staff will patrol the area looking for smouldering debris and ensuring it is properly extinguished.