Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • Rx: Burn

    Just as people manage their health through nutrition & exercise, so prairie lands need to be managed to stay healthy. Native Americans used fire to preserve the health & vigor of prairie. Today we continue that practice using “prescribed” or “controlled” burns to help restore existing prairies & help create new prairie lands.

    Credit Ron Kapala Midewin in Fall

    Before pioneers settled Illinois, prairie covered the upper ⅔ of Illinois with 60 million acres. This expand of prairie gave Illinois the nickname “Prairie State”. 

    George Catlin 1832, Bogard, Batiste, and I, Traveling through a Missouri Bottom

    At the end of each growing season dried grasses & forbs carpet the prairie. This dead plant material is prime fuel for fire from fall through early spring. Sometimes nature’s storms would set the prairie alight with a strike of lightening. More often Native American would set torch to prairie. Thousands of years of this burning land taught these aboriginal people to be expert in the skill of burning the land.