The South Puget Sound region of Washington was once largely dominated by a diverse mosaic of fire dependent grasslands that were interspersed with conifer and deciduous woodlands and wetlands. Lack of managed fire during the past 150 years has led to significant habitat loss and impact on native species. Conservation Action Planning (CAP) for the region has identified the return of fire as an important restoration strategy.
Unable to rely on local fire agencies to conduct burns at the needed scale, conservation partners involved in the collaborative prairie and oak restoration program have implemented a partner-driven ecological burn program that can function at a landscape level. After working through regulatory and administrative issues and developing an infrastructure of firefighters and equipment, we have completed two successful burn seasons. In 2008, we collectively completed 22 restoration and research burn projects. In 2009, we were able to scale up our burning on Fort Lewis, and we completed a total of 40 burn projects. This represents a tremendous increase in prescribed fire capacity for South Sound, and makes us one of the most active prescribed ecological fire programs in the state of Washington. Partners include Fort Lewis, Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources, Wolf Haven, US Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy as well as several North Puget Sound land managers.