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Dam construction update, June 15: Visitors are no longer able to cross the outlet works. There will be no access to the Bittern Marsh Trail or east side of the river during this time.

 

There will be no access to the pavilion and Beaver Pond parking area on weekdays through July 3. These parking lots will be available for use on weekends. This will include the following areas and trails: Bittern Marsh, Redbud, Cicada, Green Dragon and Cottonwood Trails. Only the Blackjack will remain unaffected during this time. Access will not be available east of the pavilion at a later undetermined date. 

 

Fire as a Management Tool

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Humans tend to view fire with mixed feelings. We enjoy sitting around a campfire, but fire is often considered to be a destructive force. Many people would view a hillside blackened by a wildfire with sadness, without realizing that for a prairie, fire is actually life-giving. Prairie grasses and wildflowers are well adapted for surviving fires. Grasses and other prairie plants have extensive root systems that allow the plant to regrow quickly if the above-ground biomass is lost. A blackened prairie hillside will be covered with new green sprouts within a couple of weeks after a fire.

However, when a tree is burned it may lose years of growth. If it is not killed completely, it will take much longer to recover than the grasses, and by the time it does, another fire will come along to set it back again. Fire is an essential force in maintaining a prairie, keeping trees from getting the upper hand and turning the prairie into a forest. Along with large grazing animals like bison, and a somewhat arid climate, fire is the reason north central Texas was home to tallgrass prairie and not deciduous forest. Historically, wildfires started by lightning or by Native Americans swept over huge expanses of the prairie on a regular basis.

At LLELA, we intentionally burn many of our prairie areas from time to time as dictated by our management goals. These “prescribed burns” benefit our prairies in a number of ways:

  • Burning recycles nutrients trapped in dead vegetation and makes them available to plants, stimulating growth.
  • Regular burning improves forage quality for wildlife and increases the diversity of plants available.
  • Well-timed fire is an important tool in controlling K-R Bluestem (a non-native grass species) and other exotic invasive plants in our prairies, as well as controlling woody vegetation.
  • Prescribed burns can remove dangerous fuel loads, preventing wildfires.
  • Burning can be used to open an area up in preparation for seed planting.