Native community types of Illinois and the Midwest evolved with and adapted to periodic wildfires. Learn more »
These fires were set by lightning or ignited by Native Americans who used fire for the management of agricultural lands and for hunting purposes.
As the European settlers moved westward, prairies were plowed for agricultural production, savannas were grazed and logged, and wetlands were drained. The settlers introduced cool-season grasses and suppressed the seasonal fires utilized by Native Americans. The increased establishment of non-native plants and encroachment of woody species, in areas previously dominated by native herbaceous plants, is directly related to the removal of fire from the Midwest landscape.
In order to mimic the fire regimes prior to European settlement, land management agencies utilize controlled burns to manage remnant natural areas and supplement restoration projects. Controlled burns kill invasive woody species, remove thatch from previous growing seasons, facilitate seeding and herbicide treatments, cycle nutrients back into the soil, and deter the early spring growth of cool-season non-native species.
In 2001, the Lake County Forest Preserve District Board of Commissioners approved our current Controlled Prescribed Burn Policy. On average, and totally weather dependent, we now burn approximately 2,500 acres throughout the preserves each year.