Prescribed burning underway in western Oregon

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service last weekend participated in prescribed burns for habitat improvements and ecological health at the Howard Buford Recreation area near Eugene.

KEZI-TV reported that the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah, Lane County Parks, and other conservation partners including the FWS and Rivers to Ridges worked on the burn; about 30 firefighters burned some 65 acres.

“Fire has been a really important component of the landscape,” said Ed Alverson, coordinator for Lane County Natural Areas. “And the native species that live here — the plants and the animals — are adapted to fire. In fact, burning by Calapooia People over thousands of years has helped create this species-rich landscape.”

Mt. Pisgah summit at sunset -- HikeOregon photo
Mt. Pisgah summit at sunset in Lane County, Oregon — HikeOregon photo

Mt. Pisgah is within the recreation area and is visible for miles  across the Eugene-Springfield area. It’s a favorite local destination; along with the 118-acre arboretum, the park includes some of the last remaining sizable, contiguous, native oak savannah prairie in the valley. Approximately 17 miles of trails lead up and around the 1,518-foot butte, with 360-degree views of the surrounding valley and mountains. Some trails are open for equestrian use; some are closed during seasonal prescribed fires.

The South Bottomlands burn on Sept. 19, 2023. (Photo courtesy Lane County Parks)
The South Bottomlands burn on Sept. 19, 2023. (Photo courtesy Lane County Parks)

Prescribed fire helps maintain native species in the area and helps prevent the open prairie conversion to closed forest land. Fire improves soil fertility and removes the buildup of thatch, along with reducing the risk of high-intensity fires in the future. A small wildfire near Mt. Pisgah was quickly contained early in August; the area of a 50-acre fire in 2019 now illustrates the habitat resilience in a post-fire area.

“Howard Buford Recreation Area supports one of the largest remaining blocks of prairie and oak habitats in the Willamette Valley,” said Alverson. “Fire is a regular and natural part of the environment of these habitats. We work closely with Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority and our Rivers to Ridges partners throughout the area to make sure the burn is safely implemented and will not disrupt the community.” More than a dozen prescribed fires have been conducted in the area since 1999 and more are planned in the upcoming weeks.

The annual Mt. Pisgah fall plant sale is scheduled for this weekend —  native plants will be sold on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Native Plant Nursery. The Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah nurture over 100 native plant species in their nursery. (541)674-3257

Buford Park map
Buford Park, 34639 Frank Parrish Rd., Eugene, Oregon