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Fellenz Woods Preserve: A controlled burn

April 17, 2019  |  Topics: Places

By Tom Mlada

Photographs by Eddee Daniel


On April 3, when weather conditions more closely resembled Spring than Winter, our Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) Stewardship Team (a.k.a. “Stew Crew”) conducted a prescribed burn of about 30 acres of open prairie at Fellenz Woods, one of 32 OWLT nature preserves, in West Bend. In order to safely execute such a large burn, our Stew Crew collaborated with the Research & Conservation Team from Riveredge Nature Center, led by Land Manager Matt Smith. We were also joined by a small group of outstanding OWLT volunteers, who always make such a difference through their gifts of time and talent!


group portrait of burn crew

Staff and volunteers assembled for the burn


“We are always on the lookout for partnership opportunities with friends, stakeholder groups, and volunteers,” said Ryan Wallin, OWLT Stewardship Director. “By collaborating, we really do accomplish so much more, expanding our staff capacity and maximizing the investments funders make in our work.”


Riveredge Land Manager Matt Smith with drip torch

Riveredge Land Manager Matt Smith with drip torch


The prescribed burn of this specific 30 acres of open prairie at Fellenz Woods was executed with great care and precision, especially given the relatively windy conditions and consideration of the adjacent West Bend airport. Prescribed burns serve a variety of purposes and are absolutely essential for the long-term health of the ecological landscape. More immediately, burning eliminates duff (thatch) build-up, removal of which allows for greater sunlight penetration into the soil and stronger establishment of favorable native vegetation. And, in facilitating the release of vital nutrients (like nitrogen), burns promote optimal growth.


the blaze


This area of prairie in Fellenz Woods is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP is a cost-share program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that removes environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and promotes the planting of vegetation that will improve environmental health and quality. As part of the CRP, OWLT partners with Washington County; this open prairie at Fellenz Woods is an example of the successful return of former agricultural land to open space natural area.


Volunteers monitoring the burn

Volunteers monitoring the burn


“Spring is the perfect time of year for our prescribed burns at our OWLT nature preserves,” said Wallin. “These 32 preserves are very special places, and we’re honored to lovingly steward them and proud to keep them free and open to the public forever.”


Ryan Wallin, OWLT Stewardship Director, spraying water

Ryan Wallin, OWLT Stewardship Director, spraying water


See additional photos of the burn on Flickr.

To learn more about Fellenz Woods Preserve, click here.


Tom Mlada is the Director of Development at Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks and project director for A Wealth of Nature.