BAYFIELD, WISCONSIN (National Park Service News Release) –The National Park Service, in collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and tribal partners, is planning a 19-acre prescribed burn on Stockton Island (Wiisaakodewan-minis) between May 10th and 26th, if weather conditions permit. The National Park Service uses prescribed burning for vegetation management and to restore cultural landscapes. In 2017 Apostle Islands National Lakeshore collaborated with the Red Cliff Band, Bad River Band and other Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission member Tribes to conduct the first cultural burn on Stockton Island in many generations, acknowledging the wisdom and cultural practice of using fire (ishkode) within this rare ecosystem.
Objectives of the prescribed cultural fire include restoring globally imperiled pine barrens habitat, with an emphasis on increasing blueberry (miin) production. “Generations of Anishinaabe harvested blueberries on islands within the archipelago. Accounts of families picking berries tell of camping and coming together to harvest; they also tell of fire. Along with other forest species, blueberries respond positively to fire. Knowing this, local Ojibwe tribes used fire to promote the harvest on Stockton Island for centuries. This relationship between humans and fire helped shape the Ojibwe culture that still utilizes these islands today,” said Damon Panek, Park Ojibwe Education Specialist.
Cultural burns take Traditional Ecological Knowledge, which is a deep knowledge of a place that has been painstakingly discovered by those who have adapted to it over thousands of years, in combination with proven science to fulfill collective goals of wise stewardship. While cultural fire is an annual goal at Apostle Islands, it is not always possible due to national fire staffing needs as well as local weather. Park staff are mindful to implement cultural fire during seasonal windows that are consistent with traditional practices.
Interagency fire specialists will burn approximately 19 acres on the northern end of the Stockton tombolo (a sandy peninsula-like feature) to reduce vegetation including encroaching shrubs and trees, promote the growth of blueberries and other native plant species, and improve wildlife habitat. Pile burning of accumulated wood debris is also planned at the Raspberry and Michigan Island light stations. Fire specialists will be on site during and after the burn to monitor. These specialists are highly trained, and the burns are only implemented after careful planning and coordination. Before a burn is started, weather conditions are assessed to ensure they are optimal to achieve burn objectives; too much wind or moisture, or lack of moisture, can affect if, how and when fire is used.
For more information about Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, please visit www.nps.gov/apis or call (715) 779-3398. Join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ApostleIslandsNationalLakeshore. For information about the Apostle Islands 50th Anniversary, visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore website at www.nps.gov/apis. Send 50th Anniversary inquiries via email to email@example.com.
Friends of the Apostle Islands Editor’s note: The prescribed burns took place on May 12, 2021. Learn more about the use of fire in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore by reading and watching this segment from the recent 50th Anniversary Resource Stewardship Symposium.