Source: Sherman Publications

Burns at park to curb shrubs

by Mary Keck

May 16, 2012

If you’ve driven near the intersection of Sashabaw and Oak Hill road recently, you may have noticed some burnt trees and shrubs in Independence Oaks North. That’s because on March 17 and April 2, Dave Borneman LLC and the Parks and Recreation department started a controlled fire there to destroy invasive species.

They hoped to reduce the number of Autumn Olive, Spotted Knapweed, and Oriental Bittersweet, which “form monocultures and crowd native plants,” said Natural Resources Planner Brittany Bird.

According to Bird, the invasive species targeted in the Independence Oaks North burn “are little to no value” for wildlife in the area because the shrubs aren’t used for nesting and don’t provide fruit that local animals would eat.

Although the burned section may be an eyesore now, Bird said, “the area will start greening up soon, but the pines will likely not recover.”

If the invasive plants return, Parks and Rec will try chemical control, drilling into the plants and injecting them with herbicides or cutting them down and putting herbicides like Glyphosate and Triclopyr into their stumps, said Bird.

These herbicides wouldn’t be all that different from weed killers like Roundup, Rodeo, or Garlon that can be purchased at the store, she explained.

Glysophate, an ingredient in Roudup, was patented and produced by the agriculture company Monsanto as a weed killer, but researchers have found levels of Glyphosate in U.S. air and water. As a result of concerns about groundwater pollution and negative health effects of Glyphosate on wildlife and humans, environmentalists formed Millions Against Monsanto Michigan group.

“We try to use aquatic safe versions so we apply product in a form that is safe for the water. Any runoff will have the lowest impact possible,” Bird explained. “We’ve never had any collateral kill or damage to wildlife” as a result of using chemicals.

Staff at the park will follow-up the controlled burn “with photo monitoring and do visual assessments,” to determine if the burn “achieved shrub kill,” she said.

They are hoping this portion of Independence Oaks will transform into a native grassland area for deer, small mammals, butterflies, and grassland birds like hawks in the future.