Environment Picture

Fire: An agent of change on IHM campus

Prescribed burn will help prairie spring to rejuvenated life
Carefully controlled prescribed burns can help rejuvenate struggling landscapes and give native plants an advantage over invasive species that crowd them out.
Fire isn’t always a destructive force, as the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM Sisters) demonstrated recently when they harnessed it as an agent for regeneration.

Certified burn professionals set fire to the front prairies of the IHM campus in Monroe last year, using drip torches to light the dried plant growth. The blaze was carefully controlled with backpack water sprayers and fire swatters. As the fire moved through the prairies, it consumed the dried plant growth, which then became nutrient–rich ash that fertilizes the prairies.

The fire kills invasive plants, but re-energizes native plants, which will begin to flourish this year now that they no longer have to compete with the invasives for water, sunlight and space.

The razing of the prairie is another step in the IHM Sisters’ efforts to create a sustainable and socially responsible campus.

The IHM Sisters have reduced their impact on the environment by renovating an existing building instead of constructing a new one. As part of the sustainable or “green” design, they restored the 260-acre campus with native species and preserved green space in an urban area. The conversion of five acres of lawn to meadow and prairie improves the biodiversity of the site and protects existing natural habitat.

The prairies located at the front of campus are an important feature of the sustainable site restoration. Prairies create a natural balance, save energy and require less maintenance than manicured lawns. Prairie plants are desirable because they are hardy to our climate, resist disease and are drought tolerant. A prescribed burn is a necessary part of the prairie maintenance plan.

To help improve the curb appeal of the prairies, volunteers planted 700 native plants along the front of the prairies. The 17 species of flowering native plants were selected for their color, height and bloom time. Once established, these new plantings will provide clusters of color from May until October.

The IHM Sisters are seeking wildlife habitat designation from the National Wildlife Federation.

Call 734-240-9754 for more information or to arrange a tour of the renovated IHM Motherhouse.
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