OLYMPIA �" Aug. 22, 2019 �" The Washington State Parks Stewardship Program and the Center for Natural Lands Management plan to do a controlled burn of about 6 acres on the southwest side of Jones Island Marine State Park sometime between Aug. 26 and Sept. 30.
State Parks will announce the burn at least a day in advance on the Jones Island Marine State Park web page and on the agency’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages (@WaStatePks). The schedule for burning will depend on when weather conditions are conducive to safe burning and minimal effects of smoke on nearby residents.
The island and park will remain open, but the area near the burn on the southwest side of the island will be closed, and the Cascade Marine Trail campsites may be closed as well. Parks staff request that visitors keep well away from this area.
State Parks is using fire to help restore the island’s prairie oak balds �" an increasingly rare native habitat in the Pacific Northwest. Balds are natural open spaces dominated by grasses and scattered trees and are characterized by low-growing vegetation, shallow soils and dry topography. These habitats are shrinking in the San Juan Islands due to encroachment by Douglas-fir and other conifers. The U.S. Forest Service estimates 95 percent of the oak and prairie habitat that existed in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1800s has been lost.
Fire has played an important role in San Juan Islands balds. These habitats historically retained their open character through frequent natural fires and burning by indigenous people. Balds provide habitat for many important species, including Garry oak (Quercus garryana) and other at-risk plants and animals, such as the rare island marble butterfly.
The State Parks Stewardship Program has been working to restore the balds at Jones Island since early 2016. The program’s long-term goal is to reclaim historic balds from conifer encroachment and invasion by non-native plants, while also protecting and preserving old-growth conifer forests on the island.
About the burn
This controlled burn will be a trial use of prescribed fire as a restoration tool on two of the island’s historic balds. Scientists and park managers hope to learn from this method to improve restoration techniques and expand similar practices to imperiled plant communities at Jones Island and elsewhere in the State Park system.
Firefighters will use a range of fire-suppression techniques to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the control lines and will assist in mop-up efforts. Controlled burns are a safe and cost-effective way to reintroduce natural disturbance to fire-adapted ecosystems.
About the Center for Natural Lands Management
The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation land trust that works in Washington and California to protect, manage and restore habitat for rare and endangered species using a range of conservation strategies. The organization has an experienced team of trained and nationally qualified firefighters. In collaboration with regional partners, they have conducted more than 700 controlled burns in the last 15 years in western Washington.
Jones Island Marine State Park
Jones Island Marine State Park is a 188-acre island off the southwest shoreline of Orcas Island and is accessible only by boat. The marine park has 24 primitive campsites, several composting toilets and two group camp areas. Evidence of a historic homestead and accompanying fruit orchard can be found on the island. Fire-scarred trees and charcoal in the soil reveal a history of fire as a natural element of the island’s ecosystems. For more information, visit https://parks.state.wa.us/525/Jones-Island.
News media contacts:
Toni Droscher, State Parks Communications Office, (360) 902-8604
David Cass, State Parks forester, (360) 902-8606
About Washington State Parks
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.
News release number: 19-066