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Contact: Micah Bell, 219-405-0125
The National Park Service (NPS) plans to conduct a prescribed fire in two burn units this spring at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore). The fire is a tool intended to restore habitat in forested ecosystems in the park. The burn units cover approximately 509 acres within the National Lakeshore’s Leelanau District in Leelanau County, between Pyramid Point and Traverse Lake Road and North of M-22 (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 2023 Spring Prescribed Fires (arcgis.com). For safety, some of the roads and trails in the interior of the park will be closed briefly during the active burning period.
The area to be burned contains unique, fire-dependent plant communities known as dry-mesic northern forest and wooded swale. Dry-mesic northern forest is typically dominated by a mix of hardwoods and pines such as jack, red, and white pines. Wooded swales are low areas between post-glacial ridges that support forested wetlands and a variety of wildflowers and other herbaceous plants. Both are important to the diversity of the Sleeping Bear Dunes ecosystem.
To ensure safe execution of the prescribed fire, and effective conservation of the dry-mesic northern forest and wooded swales, the burn will be conducted only under a specific set of weather and fuel conditions, or “prescription.” The actual burn date will depend upon NPS fire staff monitoring weather forecasts and fuel moisture to determine if and when prescription conditions are met. In addition to safety, smoke dispersal is a primary concern, and wind direction and speed will be monitored prior to ignition to minimize smoke drifting into developed areas and roadways from the fire location. Trained and experienced federal fire personnel will conduct the prescribed fire.
Prior to European settlement approximately 180 years ago, majestic dry-mesic northern forests were common in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Logging and suppression of naturally-occurring wildfires led to the decline of this forest type in the Great Lakes region. Red and jack pine usually rely on fire to regenerate and many of the species found within wooded swales need openings in the canopy for access to sunlight. Without fire as a disturbance, the slow encroachment of hardwood species and shrubs eventually outcompetes the pines, altering community composition and canopy structure. Conserving these remnants of high quality dry-mesic northern forests and wooded swales through prescribed burns will allow National Lakeshore visitors to continue to experience an ecosystem that represents a bygone, wild component of Michigan’s natural history. In addition, burning under controlled conditions will reduce fuel loads and reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfire in the future.
Updates regarding burning activities will be posted as “alerts” on the park website. For those alerts and more in-depth information about the National Lakeshore, please go to www.nps.gov/slbe. Also, check out the park’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbdnl and Twitter site at www.twitter.com/sleepingbearnps.
Last updated: May 22, 2023