Prescribed Fire and Coast Redwood Prairies

Notes from the North: This blog series is written by Save the Redwoods League North Coast Forests Fellows. The goal of this fellowship program is to advance the League’s restoration agenda on the North Coast. Enjoy!

Slow motion video of a prescribed fire in Boyes Prairie.

The arrival of winter rain storms on the north coast of California marks the end of a short but successful prescribed fire season. During a brief burn window in October, crews from California State Parks and the National Park Service diligently worked to restore the natural process of fire (external link) to various ecosystems in over 2,800 acres of Redwood National and State Parks.

Today, prescribed fire is predominantly used as a management tool to restore and maintain prairie ecosystems (external link) scattered throughout redwood forests. Historically, these grassland communities were maintained by fire, often caused by lightning strikes and the use of fire in active land stewardship by local Native American tribes. However, for many decades fire suppression policies effectively eliminated fire and allowed conifers to encroach into prairie ecosystems.

Without fire, forests can eventually replace grasslands, eliminating important wildlife habitat and reducing biodiversity. Vibrant prairies are necessary to provide wildlife corridors for elk and other animals, vast fields of blooming wildflowers including nitrogen-fixing lupines, as well as open vistas where park visitors can enjoy views of redwoods and prairies.

The success of landscape-scale restoration including prescribed burning is dependent on interagency coordination to share resources. Six Rivers National Forest and CAL FIRE have been vital partners in helping Redwood National and State Parks conduct prescribed fires. The League is continuing to foster and develop these relationships to increase the capacity to achieve widespread ecological restoration throughout the redwood region.

The accompanying slide show is from a prescribed fire at Boyes Prairie in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. All photos and videos were taken by Andrew Slack.

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About the author

Andrew Slack joined Save the Redwoods League in 2016 after earning a master’s degree in forestry and fire ecology from Humboldt State University. Currently, Andrew is working on collaborative restoration projects on the north coast of California with League partners.

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