Photo: Jay Mather.

Feeling the Burn at the Metolius Preserve

Apr 03, 2024 by Jana Hemphill
Learn more about the Land Trust's upcoming forest restoration efforts at the Metolius Preserve.

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Healthy forests, diverse native plant communities, and thriving wildlife are a few of the habitat goals the Land Trust is working towards at our Metolius Preserve near Camp Sherman. How do we get there? One of our tools is prescribed burning.

Prescribed burns are planned fires that mimic natural fires. They are forest management tools that are carefully planned for and managed. Central Oregon’s forests benefited from fire for thousands of years. In fact, the removal of fire during the last hundred years has shown us exactly how important fire is. Small, regular low-intensity fires have been replaced by large catastrophic ones that make it harder for our forests to recover.

That’s why we are working to reintroduce fire to the Metolius Preserve this year. We’re planning to return this natural part of the forest cycle to provide a variety of benefits to the trees, plants, and wildlife. For example, soil fertility typically increases after low-intensity fires. After a fire, trees can also provide more food and shelter for wildlife since fires promote vegetation growth and help create snags, dead standing trees, that wildlife use for shelter. Prescribed burns also remove thick layers of duff on the forest floor (like pine needles, sometimes up to a foot deep!). Duff removal helps prevent future high-intensity wildfires and encourages new plant growth.

The Land Trust is currently working with our partners at the Sisters Ranger District and The Nature Conservancy to develop a burn plan and schedule the timing for a prescribed burn at the Metolius Preserve that will align with the prescribed burning of immediately adjacent Deschutes National Forest land. Forest restoration and prescribed burning are key parts of returning health and resilience to the Metolius Preserve. We look forward to seeing a thriving forest once again!


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