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bmc

Meadow Burns Duck nesting Habitat - Federal Forestry!!!

14 posts in this topic

This is a bad pun, but this really burns my @$$. Every spring the Federal Forestry is out burning meadows and other areas with no consideration for the nesting waterfowl. As I'm typing this right now, a fire they started got out of control and according to radio traffic, has burned up 600 acres of woodland/wetland habitat northwest of Deer River, MN. Why in the heck are they burning right now when we have waterfowl nesting in these areas? Is there any legitimate reason for them to be doing these burns? I'm planning on writing the 3 local newspapers in my area and hope others will do the same. Now wonder the duck population is going down hill!

Brian

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I have to say that makes me scratch the head wondering why also.

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I think the reason they do it now is to get good growth this summer. Also a duck nesting right now will re nest for sure maybe 2 or 3 times if she has too. They are not just going to sit there and burn up. It is to bad that it got out of control, but it the burn will only help in the long run.

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We could actually use more fires in this state. Fires are natures way of "housecleaning" makes things alot healthier. Somehow we have gotten it into our heads that all fires are bad and need to be squashed out immediatley, Before we settled this area fires were an annual event on the prairies started by you know who. In the long run it's the best thing that can happen for the ducks, creates better nesting enviroment. Remember the Yellowstone fire from a few years back and how people were just wringing their hands? how horrible! look at it now, looks magnificent, the plants and foliage came better than before. With that said I'm sorry to hear if anyone lost their homes..thats just bad management

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right on pete,

the fires make the habitat better in the long run, and the ducks will renest

the spring is the best time to burn, the fuel is still there, and the winds are strong enough to keep a burn under control, usually

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A friend of mine that burns parts of his place every year says it gets rid of all the ticks on that ground too, which is obviously a good thing. He has tons of wildlife on his property too, so I don't think it's hurt a thing. The fields he burned a few weeks ago are lush & green now.

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Yep, fire is mother nature's cleanser.

I wish they would burn all wildlife management areas at least once every 3 years or so. Would greatly enhance the habitat.

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I just finished up a college class on forest fires in Alaska. I have a great article on wildlife and how buring helps 99% of all species. If you want to read it I can email it too you. Wildfire is also VERY important for certain kinds of trees to grow. Some pine cones do not even open up to let seeds out until they burn.

A mature stage forest is NOT the best kind of forest for wildlife. I agree on the wildlife management areas being burned as well. If the forest service would do more controlled burns, say in the fall, then it would not have as much an affect on wildlife.

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bmc, I agree with most everyone else here, we need these burns.

Spring is proven to be the best time to do it, as well.

We need to stop with being overly concerned with the "here and now" and be more concerned with long-term. Burns are a critical piece in the "long-term" health of praries, forests, and even wetlands.

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The principle behind the native prairie burns is that it knocks back the cool season grasses about the time the warm season/native prairie grasses start growing. It also releases the (pot)ash and kills back a lot of the woody growth/young trees. If periodic burns are not done, the natural succession of plants is for grass to be replaced by trees. In the short term a few nests will be lost but the adult hens will get away and renest. In the long-term the native grasses will come back thicker and provide better nesting habitat in future years.

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The timing of a burn depends on several factors:

- the type of habitat burned (forest, wetland, prairie)

- the wildlife the burn is intended for (prairie chickens, sharptailed grouse, waterfowl...) and

- the time of year they nest (which isn't the exact same every year)

- the prevailing weather conditions (can't have fire without the right weather)

- whether or not it is still frozen under the wetland (if the burn is done early, burning personnel and equipment can get around the marsh with relative ease, if not...)

- green up (late in the spring, green vegetation makes it more difficult to burn, smokier for the personnel to work in, and more smoke may billow into highways and towns, upsetting the locals)

- presence of brush (if there is a lot of brush to knock back--which is usually the intent of the burn--different conditions are required...the fire needs to burn hot enough to kill the brush, but not so hot the burning brush presents a control problem)

Those are just a few of the factors I can think of that would influence the timing of a prescribed burn. Personally I think burning is a great management tool, but it won't always be perfect. Remember, when these fires naturally maintained wildlife habitat, they started whenever conditions were conducive--rather than being timed with waterfowl reproduction--and the ducks did just fine.

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I recently walked through a waterfowl production area that had been burnt a couple of days earlier looking for antler sheds. There were no sheds to be found that day but I did find several duck nests. All of the nests I found had broken eggs that appeared to have been eaten by some type of nest raider(racoon, skunk, or possum.) Out of ten or twelve nests there was not a single intact egg. From the way the egg shells were darkened by the fire and the remaining yolk cooked it appeared to me that all of the nests were raided before the area was burnt.

This area also has several of the DNR's duck nesting platforms in the slough, all of which were occupied by canada geese. Between the nest raiders, the geese hogging prime nesting areas and the various predators(native and introduced) that kill those ducklings that do hatch it is amazing that any ducks do manage to survive.

We all know that more habitat will mean more ducks but it is apparent to me that we really need to thin out the skunk, racoon, and possum populations to protect the eggs in the nest. In the county I live the DNR has cut trees and brush to eliminate perches for birds of prey that eat the ducklings(This is causing more problems than it is worth.) As for the non native ditch predators(they are unprotected in Minnesota) a little common sense and discretion will go a long way to helping the ducks.

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Quote:

In the county I live the DNR has cut trees and brush to eliminate perches for birds of prey that eat the ducklings(This is causing more problems than it is worth.)


I have heard of other agencies/groups doing this as well, not just for waterfowl but for pheasants as well. In the case of pheasants, I really question this practice--reducing habitat for native raptor species to favor a non-native game species. I like the taste of pheasant as much as anyone, but I don't think that we should push against natural ecology for the benefit of hunters--we need to accept those natural conditions and recreate within them. Those hawks have value too.

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M.T.Bucket;

On one hand I agree with you that we should put a higher priority on our native species, on the other hand I am not going to bite the hand that feeds me so to speak. The money that pheasants bring in to this area through habitat stamps and pheasants forever buys a lot of habitat. When the DNR does their burns in the spring they used to go around the established stands of willows and plums, they would leave the trees along the sloughs and streams. This edge habitat is where I do most of my bowhunting for deer. Now with the elimination of a lot of this cover the pheasants have lost a lot of roosting cover and since most late season pheasant hunters will not try the open grasslands but will head straight for the willows and brushy edges this brings them and their dogs into the area I may be trying to bowhunt and it also pushes the pheasants into the tall grass to roost for the night. I have found in the last year or two alot more pheasants killed by fox and coyotes. Pheasants need to roost a good five feet or higher off the ground to be safe.

To get back to the original topic of this post the one thing I have not seen mentioned that is one of my favorite reasons for having the grasslands burnt on a regular basis is it really knocks back those miserable cockleburrs. Burning also gets rid of a lot knocked over grass and weed that can make walking so tough.

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