The Prairie State, part of the Prairie Peninsula that stretches from the Great Plains to eastern Ohio, was historically dominated by prairie. The climate and rainfall in Illinois is fully capable of supporting trees, but fire enabled the prairie to persist for thousands of years up to the time of European settlement. Landscape scale fire, both natural and anthropogenic, has shaped the natural communities and ecologies of Illinois including its forests, savannas, wetlands and prairies.
Today prescribed fire is the most important management practice in maintaining and restoring healthy landscapes. The future of Illinois' natural areas depends on repeated application of fire that maintains appropriate tree species and densities in our woodlands and keeps our wetland and grasslands in check. Fire is also an important tool in the management of invasive species. Fire is also the most cost effective tool in the land manager’s toolbox.
Significantly more prescribed fire needs to occur across the state to maintain the ecological health of Illinois' natural areas. It is imperative that natural resource managers utilize fire in land management just as it is critical for the public to understand the vital and singular role prescribed fire plays in managing Illinois’ natural areas. The restoration of the woodlands at Siloam Springs State Park is a good example of the positive impact from the reintroduction of fire in natural community management.
The appropriate application of fire along with the necessary precautions and safety measures are key to a successful prescribed burning program (or effort). The resources found here will provide the information necessary for using prescribed fire in Illinois.