Honey Creek, IA: The Pottawattamie County Conservation Natural Areas Management team and partners will conduct prescribed fire at Hitchcock Nature Center and Mt. Crescent Ski Area the week of November 6. Visitors and surrounding areas should be aware that smoke and fire will be present throughout the 1,500-acre park system.
Members of the public who decide to visit Hitchcock Nature Center during this time should be aware that smoke and fire may be present throughout the park. Hikers should stay on trails, avoid areas where active fire ignition operations are occurring, turn around if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and follow the instructions of fire crews if encountered.
“Fire is a natural part of our environment and prairie has evolved to thrive with it,” Pottawattamie Conservation promotions and outreach coordinator Kylie Jacott said. “Visitors who decide they are comfortable with fire conditions are welcome but should understand that being in close proximity to fire possesses inherent risks. Fire demands your respect.”
This powerful land management process is derived from native peoples of the Great Plains and plays a vital role in maintaining the health of Iowa’s prairie ecosystem while mitigating the dangers of wildland fire by reducing fuel load. When prescribed, fire stimulates native plant growth, removes woody encroachment that can overtake a prairie, and increases diversity.
“Our society tends to forget that plants are the foundation of the whole system,” Pottawattamie Conservation natural resource specialist and park ranger Chad Graeve said. “If we want to care for animals as well, we need to take care of their home. In Iowa, there’s not much of their home left and it’s our job to protect it.”
Eighty-five percent of Iowa was once covered in tallgrass prairie. Today, less than 0.1 percent remains.
Prescribed burns can take place any time of the year but commonly occur in November and sometimes early December depending on weather conditions. Temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, and land management goals all play a role in determining when conditions are right for applying fire to the landscape. Conservation staff strives to give the public as much notice as possible of prescribed fire occurring but due to its weather-dependence, announcements are often made the day-of or the week-of.
Visitors can check the Hitchcock Nature Center Facebook page or pottconservation.com for important updates. Those concerned about air quality can see what conditions are like at the park in real-time by visiting map.purpleair.com and searching for Hitchcock Nature Center.
Pottawattamie County Conservation is proud to work with several local fire partners including the Council Bluffs Fire Department, the Loess Hills State Forest, Harrison County Conservation, Pottawattamie County Secondary Roads, Fontenelle Forest, Crescent Fire Department, Lewis Township, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and others.
About Pottawattamie Conservation: Pottawattamie Conservation promotes an appreciation for Iowa's unique natural areas through year-round environmental education programming, natural resource management, habitat restoration, as well as many recreational activities at six county parks. Whether you enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, or just want to learn something new, Pottawattamie Conservation offers exceptional opportunities to experience and explore the outdoors. www.pottconservation.com
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