Whitman Mission to Burn Native Grasses
Superintendent Terry Darby announced that Whitman Mission National Historic Site is preparing to conduct a prescribed burn at the park between March 7 and March 30, 2008. Technical experts in the National Park Service fire management program approved the prescribed fire plan for 2008. Local U.S. Forest Service fire managers assisted with the planning and will conduct the burn at the park.
“Weeds are a problem every year, especially aggressive or noxious weeds like yellow starthistle, Canada thistle, and poison hemlock. Using fire to maintain the tall grass costs less than mowing, and provides a natural fertilizer in the process,” said Superintendent Darby.
Over the last twenty years the Whitman Mission staff has revegetated almost 80 acres. Tall grass species growing now give visitors a sense of how this valley looked to Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in the 1840s.
The first few weeks after a prescribed fire allow park staff time to apply herbicide to the weeds while the new growing grass is still short. The native grasses of the Walla Walla Valley burned periodically as a result of lightning strikes or fires set by Native Americans to improve forage for wildlife and later for their horse herds.
Weather conditions that make it a burn day and availability of park and U.S. Forest Service staff will determine the specific day for the burn. Copies of the Prescribed Fire Plan are available for public inspection at Whitman Mission National Historic Site. The superintendent or resource management staff is available to answer any questions by calling the park at 509-522-6360 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Did You Know?
The Whitmans’ mission was important to early Oregon Trail travelers. Those who were sick, tired, or hungry or who needed a wagon fixed would make the side trip to the mission. Some would spend the winter with the Whitmans before continuing on to the Willamette Valley.