Prescribed Burns and Pre-Shenandoah History: My Meadow Program

This week I got to present my third program, a guided hike through our big meadow area. I haven’t done a hiking program yet, so this was a different experience. The program lasts about an hour and a half, and most of that time I focus on how open spaces like this meadow form.

I talk about the indigenous people who would have used the land, and how there is a high chance they burned this area to keep it open for hunting. After they were pressured off the land, white mountain settlers moved in and used the meadow for their livestock. These animals created a different type of disturbance through grazing. After the mountain settlers were moved out for the creation of the park in 1936, the meadow was mowed and trees were chopped back. In the 1970s experimental burning was deemed successful, and in 2000 we had our first full meadow burn. Since then the meadow has been split into three sections, and cycled through burning, mowing, and leaving it alone.

During my program I really highlight the benefits of burning. For example, because we maintain our meadow it’s a biodiversity hotpot and holds 18% of our rare plants in the park. I would also add that burning cleans up the land, returns nutrients to the ground, and knocks back invasive spices. I realize I probably overload visitors with information, so I ask them to think about fire as a gardener who prunes, fertilizes, and cares for plants.

I’ve worked on prescribed prairie burns before, so I’m very happy I get to use my experience and knowledge here in Shenandoah!


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