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.