Conservation Halton ecological restoration staff have been busy planning throughout the winter, for prescribed burns at the Pleasant View Natural Area - Cartwright and Hopkins Tracts.
The prescribed burn at Cartwright in the Pleasant View Natural Area is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12 as long as weather conditions remain favourable for conducting it. The burn will be postponed if conditions are unfavourable. Due to the characteristics of the Hopkins Tract it will be burned at a later date which will be posted on the Conservation Halton website.
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, non-fire tolerant invasive species, while allowing for growth and encouraging regeneration of the naturally occurring trees like oak and hickory, and native grasslands species.
The Cartwright Tract is home to a small population of American Columbo, an endangered plant. The half hectare area around the endangered plant will be burned in order to improve habitat conditions for the species. The population is threatened by the dense canopy and understory cover in the forest, limiting the light and heat needed for the species to thrive.
Conservation Halton, as part of its monitoring program, has determined that the population of American Columbo in this area has declined by more than 60%. As a restoration tool, the goal of the prescribed burn is to turn that number around. The burn would mimic the natural disturbance of a fire, increasing canopy openings necessary to maintain an oak woodland ecosystem. An oak woodland ecosystem supports and enhances American Columbo populations. The prescribed burn will also encourage oak seedling regeneration which is a key to sustaining this important habitat.
Residents living in the area surrounding the Pleasant View Natural Area have been notified with a prescribed burn notice in the mail and advertisments have been placed in the Dundas Star and Flamborough Review newspapers.
The prescribed burns are both in accordance with the Operational Prescribed Burn Plans for the Pleasant View Natural Area.
Pleasant View Natural Area will be closed to public access during the day of the burn. Hopkins Tract and Cartwright Tract are owned by Conservation Halton. Cartwright Tract is managed in collaboration with the Hamilton’s Naturalist Club.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Pleasant View Natural Area - Cartwright and Hopkins Tracts?
Located in the Pleasant View Area of Dundas, the Pleasant View Natural Area is part of one of the primary ecological corridors linking the Niagara Escarpment and Cootes Paradise marsh. Cartwright Tract features a public walking trail through its forest community. A population of American Columbo (Frasera caroliniesis), a wildflower in the Gentian family listed as an Endangered Species, can also be found in Cartwright Tract; this is one of less than a dozen known occurrences in Canada. The Hopkins Tract is a fallow field ready for future restoration efforts but not accessible to the public at this time. Pleasant View Natural Area provides corridors to wildlife such as White-tailed Deer, Coyote and Wild Turkey.
These properties are located in the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System (www.cootestoescarpmentpark.ca) of which Conservation Halton is a partner, with eight other organizations. There is currently more than 1950 hectares of permanently protected lands within the EcoPark System which are home to more than 50 species at risk. This prescribed burn is one of the many ongoing initiatives to protect, restore and connect the significant natural lands connecting Lake Ontario to the Niagara Escarpment.
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. The Royal Botanical Gardens and Hamilton Conservation Authority have conducted prescribed burns for similar purposes, over the past several years within Hamilton.
Why is Conservation Halton undertaking a prescribed burn in Pleasant View Natural Area - Cartwright and Hopkins Tracts?
The northern part of Cartwright Tract features a well-established forest community dominated by Red Oak, Shagbark Hickory and Black Walnut. Conservation Halton is enhancing the established oak and hickory forest to better support the existing population of American Colombo. Oak woodlands and savannahs have evolved to be fire-dependent as burns benefit native plants and animals by removing invasive plants and grasses and returning nutrients to the soils. After a burn, the blackened soil soaks up the sun’s heat to improve germination of native plants, such as the American Columbo.
The Hopkins Tract is composed of an old agricultural field that has been left to succeed over time. The objective of the prescribed burn at Hopkins Tract is to transform the fallow field by removing invasive species and enhancing habitat for native species. This site preparation technique will enable greater success in establishing native species during restoration initiatives in 2017 to create small wetlands and a deciduous forest.
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 will not affect surrounding neighbourhoods. However, it is possible that some smoke from the prescribed burn may reach some of the residential areas near Pleasant View Natural 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 Pleasant View Natural Area on the day of the burn.
Who carries out the burn?
Wildfire Specialist Inc. 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 Hamilton Fire Department will be in a standby capacity. The Burn Boss with Wildfire Specialist Inc. has expertise in the field of prescribed burning.
How long will the burn take?
It is expected that the burn in Pleasant View Natural Area - Cartwright and Hopkins Tracts will take several hours to complete within in a single day. After completion of the burn, staff will patrol the area looking for smouldering debris and ensuring that it is properly extinguished.
How is success measured?
Conservation Halton staff, trained in ecological restoration, will determine the outcome of the burns. Pre and post monitoring conditions of these ecosystems will be compared and studied to determine the positive and negative impacts associated with the projects’ goals.