Phragmites to be burned in autumn

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:57 PM

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will conduct a prescribed burn on the river in Spring Lake Township sometime this summer or early fall, when weather and other burn conditions are favorable.

“It is an excellent way to remove all of the biomass, because you get them decomposing as fast as possible,” Spring Lake Wetland Watch President Leslie Newman said.

DNR officials will burn 15 sites that range in size from an eighth of an acre to 2 acres. Phragmites produces thick, impenetrable vegetation that provides little value to native wildlife.

“The management of phragmites has a two-pronged approach, in that it is first sprayed with herbicide and then burned the following year,” said Nik Kalejs, a wildlife biologist for the DNR in Ottawa County. “This management technique has been very effective in the past in mitigating the spread of this aggressive invader.”

Kalejs said that a prescribed burn is necessary for the health of wetlands and many wildlife species.

“Phragmites control is an ongoing collaborative project with the DNR's Wildlife and Forest Resources divisions," he said. "The health of the habitat of this area will be much better off for many years as a result of this burn.”

The Grand River burn will take place on state-managed land on Dermo and Poel islands. Newman said burning treated phragmites is an option the state has due to the size and scope of the islands.

In more confined areas and areas near populations such as Harbor Island, a different approach has been used.

“When we did it on Harbor Island, we used a vehicle to smash it down,” Newman said.

Read the complete story in Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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