May 2, 2017

MDIFW NEWS -- Controlled Wildfire Burn On Swan Island In Richmond To Help Wildlife, Native Plants

RICHMOND, Maine – On Thursday, May 4, the Department Of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff plan to conduct a prescribed wildfire burn on the Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area, also known as Swan Island, located on the Kennebec River just east of Richmond.

The primary purpose of this project is to improve habitat for grassland birds that are found on the island including bobolinks, meadowlarks, and savannah sparrows. Burning in a controlled manner under specific weather conditions safely reduces the decaying leaves and grasses which improves nesting habitat.

“Prescribed burns are a valuable tool for wildlife biologists as these controlled burns improve habitat, regenerate native plants and limit invasive species,” said IFW wildlife biologist John Pratte, who will oversee the prescribed burn.

The burn also reduces and eliminates some of the invasive plant species on the island such as Japanese barberry, autumn olive and multi-flora rose, as well as encroaching shrubs and trees. The burn will also provide growing space for the occurrence of milkweed which is an important food source for monarch butterfly larvae.

The burn is tentatively scheduled to take place this Thursday but is subject to a tight set of prescribed conditions such as temperatures, humidity, wind speed and direction, and ground moisture present. The burn could be postponed if these conditions are not met.

The prescribed burn will take place on two fields on the island, one approximately ten acres and another of approximately 16 acres. The prescribed burns will be accomplished by a group of trained wildlife fire fighters from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Maine Forest Service, Burning Alternatives - Prescribed Fire Services LLC, and the Unity College Wildfire Club.

Swan Island possesses a unique combination of wildlife, recreation and history. The island is comprised of large forested areas intermingled with open fields and small wetlands. The diverse habitat is home to a variety of birds and mammals.

Swan Island, located at the head of Merrymeeting Bay on the Kennebec River, is a wildlife management area owned and operated by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Swan Island provides a variety of recreational opportunities including educational programs, camping, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking, wildlife viewing, photography, and fishing.

The proposed burn is weather dependent and if the conditions are not within the prescribed parameters, the day of the burn will be rescheduled.

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