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Categorized | Outdoors

Fletcher grasslands prescribed burns

Fletcher grasslands prescribed burns
A prescribed burn at Fletcher grasslands.

The Fletcher Grasslands is one of Michigan’s largest, contiguous, nonforested areas of public land, spanning 2,000 acres in southeastern Kalkaska County. Once managed specifically for sharp-tailed grouse, this area is now managed to support an ecosystem filled with diverse life. To maintain biodiversity in this grassland and oak pine barrens complex, a variety of techniques are used to manage the habitat, including native seed plantings, mowing, tree harvesting, farming and mulching. But there is one ancient approach preferred for taking care of this grassland: fire.  

Centuries ago, large wildfires burned across Michigan, shaping the composition of the land and creating open grasslands in areas with sandy soils. This natural disturbance had the unique ability to set back forest succession, promote the regrowth of native species, clear and warm seed beds, and recycle nutrients back into the soil. In modern fire management, controlled prescribed burns are used to obtain the same benefits that wildfires provided, without the variability and risk of an uncontained flame. Fire-adapted systems treated with a controlled burn become more resilient to climate changes, grow native species of greater diversity, and have improved overall ecosystem health.

The benefits of prescribed burns are on full display in the Fletcher Grasslands. Rich in wildlife, these areas provide countless opportunities for hunters and wildlife watchers. Wildlife species such as the tawny crescent, dusted skipper, eastern whip-poor-will, smooth green snake, wild turkey and white-tailed deer all depend on fire in the ecosystem to thrive.

To learn more about the benefits of fire, see where burns are taking place and watch footage from past burns, visit Michigan.gov/FireManagement.

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