On May 10, flames signaled a controlled burn at Macalester’s Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area (Ordway Field Station), in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, 17 miles from campus. The college contracted with Prairie Restorations, Inc. to conduct the burn, to stimulate the growth of desired prairie flowers and grasses, remove thatch, and reduce woody plant invasion into the prairie.
“One pillar of the field station’s mission is sustainability,” says Ordway Director Jerald Dosch. “Fire serves as an important management tool that allows us to mimic some of the natural, historic forces that helped to create and maintain prairies. These controlled burns help us sustain the native diversity of our prairie ecosystems.”
Prairie Restorations, Inc., conducts these burns only under a specific set of conditions when local air temperature, wind, humidity and precipitation patterns are all within carefully chosen limits. This helps ensure a high quality burn while at the same time maximizing safety. Burn breaks were mowed to help manage the fire and the professionals used a series of small, rapid fires to burn the large area in just over an hour. Within a month the prairie was once again a lush sea of green nearly knee high.
The approximately 300-acre site was established in 1967 by Macalester College with the help of a major gift from Katharine Ordway.