Prescribed Burning and Masticating on Turkey Mountain


About a week ago the RiverParks folks here in Tulsa announced that conditions were finally right and resources available to proceed with a long planned controlled burn on Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Park. They closed the park and their partners, the Oklahoma Forest Service executed the prescribed burn. They asked everybody to stay I did. I did cuz I am a rule follower, most of the time, but I went for a bike ride on the adjoining bike trails and took a few photos. And you could see a fire was going and the smoke was dispersing and I could just barely smell the smoke.

They reopened the mountain the next day and of course I had to go check it out and it was interesting. As advertised it was apparently a “cool fire” that just went along the ground burning dead grass, leaves, and underbrush.

I think that the area was only about 12 acres or so. None of the standing trees were damaged from what I can see and they were able to keep the fire contained tightly. They have to have the right combination of temperature, humidity, winds, and other factors to minimize the risk of the fire getting away from them especially in an urban area.

There was a lot of smoldering going on but the RiverParks people said that they were not worried about it as long as it was in the original burned area. The place smelled like Boy Scout campout.

The burns are done to clear out the understory and get rid of invasive species. It reduces the risk of unwanted forest fires by getting rid of “ladder species” vegetation that a wildfire can crawl to get the tree canopy. It’ll open the forest and provide better grazing for deer and opportunities for native trees like oaks to thrive. It’s all part of the Turkey Mountain Master Plan.

So I have heard of prescribed burns before but Turkey Mountain has another tool they are using. It is called “Mastication.” This is where they used machinery called brush shredders to mulch the underbrush and invasive species. I had never heard of this term before but they masticated a small area of Turkey Mountain a few weeks ago. I visited it right afterward when they reopened the area after the work was done. It really opened up the forest. I love the effect.

And with the reopening you could see how the old trails were not well designed and were just kind of drainage ditches. I think they are going to be working on new, more sustainable trails in the area soon.

I had never seen brush cutters in action before but I found this video. It’s kind of a fearsome process to watch but it sure yields great results.

The RiverParks people say that the effect on wildlife is minimal. Both controlled burns and mastication are slow enough that the animals can evade the area. Long term it will provide better habitat for them.

I think they are going to be doing more of these projects as time goes by. Yes, I’m losing some of the fun jungly areas of Turkey Mountain but it will be replaced by a more natural, wildlife friendly vegetation and trees.

I’m linking with Skywatch Friday.

19 thoughts on “Prescribed Burning and Masticating on Turkey Mountain

  1. Angie

    Alan – I am not sure how I feel about the “mastication”, but prescribed burns have been used by indigenous cultures for years, and were very effective for fuel management and other outcomes. I am glad they were able to keep it under control – I have seen these things take off and it can be very scary!

  2. Penelope Notes

    Nice to see your favorite spot get so much care and attention. These prescribed fires are done in B.C., too, but we still see many out of control fires in our forests. Mastication is new to me but I think it has been done to a minimal degree near my neck of the woods.

  3. Vicki

    Where I previously live for a little over 20 years, our land backed up to the Withlacoochee Forest. They did controlled burns every few years. One year it got away from them and we were evacuated. They finally got it under control a few acres from the house. Scary stuff!

  4. Amy

    Controlled burn offs are much safer than people just doing their own thing over Summer, there’s less risk of fires getting out of control.

  5. Joyful

    I’m sorry you’re losing some of your favourite jungly areas. But controlled burns are a good way to manage forest fires. Weather is looking good in your neck of the woods. Enjoy.

  6. Nandakumar

    Never knew that forest fires can be planned too for good. We had forest fire due to dry heat which burnt out hectares of rainforest reserve. The nature healed itself by showering rains over the region. But the impact was too large which made King Cobras enter human habitat.

  7. Ellen

    They brought a masticator into the housing area where I live in Yellowstone a couple years ago. It did an amazing job, but was noisy and the forest looked like wood chips had been scattered everywhere. We live in such different environments. It’s so dry here that leaving a fire smoldering would be unimaginable. It is a great way to bring new and healthy growth to the forest. I think we’re a family of rule followers.

  8. Sallie

    Gotta’ get rid of those invasive species and some of that undergrowth that inhibits the big trees — we have seen quite a few controlled burns in this area because everything grows in this climate whether it should or not. They put notices everywhere and signs along the road saying ‘don’t report, prescribed burn’ but like you say, they can’t publicize too far ahead of the burn day because conditions have to be right.

  9. Alana

    I’ve never seen a burn but I enjoyed the time lapse video you posted . Natural forest fires are a part of normal cycles, which we have disrupted, at great cost to the environment. The mastication is something that may have been done along a part of one of the urban walking trails we frequent – we didn’t see it in action but saw the results and wondered what had happened. There were a lot of invasive plants in that area.

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