Prescribed Burning

Why burn?

Quercus Land Stewardship uses fire as a tool in restoring and managing natural landscapes in Wisconsin.  We see fire as a powerful, natural force that is deeply ingrained in our landscape’s history.

Pasque Flower at Pheasant Branch Conservancy.    Photo by Robert Baller

We understand that prescribed fire, when used carefully, is an indispensable tool in ecological restoration and land management for us in the Upper Midwest.

Nearly a century of research in grassland and woodland ecology in Wisconsin has informed the natural resources community’s evolving views on fire’s role in the landscape, and Quercus is active in promoting the safe and judicious use of fire in a land management context.

Quercus is active in attending and providing training opportunities for the fire community, attending and sponsoring fire conferences, and our members participate on advisory boards like the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council.


All our fire crew members have completed the standard Wildland Firefighter certification that is required for all federal wildland firefighters.

Many of our crew have completed advanced National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) training including leadership training, fire behavior, and ignition operations.

Jim Elleson has completed over a dozen NWCG courses up through RX-300 Prescribed Fire Burn Boss and RX-410 Smoke Management.


Briefing at Holy Wisdom. Photo by Mary Kay Baum

Quercus is fully insured for prescribed burning. We maintain close communications with DNR fire managers, county dispatch, and local authorities, and limit our burning within strict limitations for safety and efficacy.  We train all our personnel to our own internal standards for fire planning, organization, chain of command, and conduct before, during, and after the burn.  We also plan our burns carefully to protect air quality and minimize risk of excessive air pollution.  Successfully conducting prescribed burns in a densely populated region is a complex operation–Quercus has successfully completed 100s of burns around the state over the past twelve years, ranging in size from a fraction of an acre to 800+ acres in size.

Burning Woodlands

Many people recognize the prairie burn–tall grasses, burning rapidly and dramatically.  But woodlands, especially oak, are fire-dependent as well.  According to John Curtis’ Vegetation of Wisconsin (1959) fire was important in maintaining oak woods and savannas, which covered most of southern Wisconsin prior to settlement.  Today, these communities are filling in with brush and shade-tolerant tree species due to the lack of fire, and diminished grazing.  Low-intensity burns in oak woodlands help reduce invasive brush and lead to improved habitat for many species of native plants and wildlife that have become rare due to fire suppression.  A sustained burning program in a woodland leads to a more open, airy structure that is both ecologically sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

When we burn in woodlands, we take extra precautions for preparation and followup.  Snags and heavy woody debris can create potential hazards.  As always, we only give the go-ahead to burn after careful assessment of current and predicted weather conditions and the observed conditions on the ground.