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. After several weeks of monitoring the weather, conditions are favourable for the prescribed burn to take place at Cartwright this Monday, April 10, 2017, starting at 2 p.m. 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, www.conservationhalton.ca.
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.
“Over the last ten years Conservation Halton staff and partners have monitored the American Columbo population and habitat characteristics as part of our monitoring program.” said Kim Barrett, Associate Director, Science and Partnerships, Conservation Halton. “Over that time, the number of mature plants has declined by 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 to increase canopy openings to maintain an oak woodland ecosystem which supports and enhances the American Colombo population. The prescribed burn will also encourage oak seedling regeneration which is a key to sustaining this important habitat. “Conservation Halton is pleased to be implementing this restoration work to improve the habitat of this species at risk population,” added Barrett.
“The Province of Ontario is pleased to support this prescribed burn to help restore American Colombo through the Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, which is for on the ground activities that benefit species at risk and their habitats,” said Ted McMeekin, MPP Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale. “Personally, I’m delighted to see the work being done by all the Cootes to Escarpment partner organizations to protect and restore these valuable ecological lands in our community.”
The Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Fund was created under the provincial Endangered Species Act as a way to proactively and collaboratively protect and recover Ontario’s species at risk.
“There is evidence that American Columbo benefits from open canopies and given that natural fire is suppressed in southern Ontario, it is possible that the declines in this species is a result of canopy closure that results from habitat succession and invasion by non-native species which flourish in environments not regularly burned,” said Graham Buck, Management Biologist, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
"As the stewards of the Cartwright Tract, Hamilton Naturalists’ Club volunteers have built trails and boardwalks but the most rewarding work has been to monitor the American Columbo. We have conducted annual monitoring with Conservation Halton staff and have worked to manage invasive plants around the population. The prescribed burn is an important next step to improve the habitat for this interesting endangered species," added Jen Baker, Land Trust Manager with the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club.
The Hopkins Tract, acquired by Conservation Halton in December 2015, has a small four hectare old field which will be restored with small wetlands and native forests. The old field is dominated by the invasive Common Buckthorn and non-native grasses which provide very little habitat or food for wildlife. The objective of the prescribed burn at Hopkins Tract is to prepare the fallow field in order to transform it into a healthy native ecosystem. The prescribed burn will help prepare the area for restoration efforts in 2017.
Residents living in the area surrounding the Pleasant View Natural 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.
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.