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Environmental Progress - Spring 2001

Taylorville Landfill Burn Promotes Stabilization

Native plants need occasional fires to thrive

Prescribed burning of prairie grass at Taylorville site

The Burn moved quickly.

Vegetation at landfills traditionally consists of wide expanses of short rooted turf grasses, but there are drawbacks to these cool season grasses. The wildlife value of these expanses is low. They usually require frequent mowing and regular applications of water and fertilizer. Though readily available, relatively inexpensive, and with high seedling vigor providing quick stabilization, they do not have the sustained drought tolerance of native prairie grasses and forbs (wildflowers).

At the closed Taylorville landfill, in Christian County, a less common cover has been used to combat serious recurrent erosion. Native prairie grasses which develop extremely deep roots have been planted there. Because they are hardy, native prairie plants need less mowing, fertilizer, pesticide and water, reducing maintenance costs. Native plants are evolutionarily adapted to local conditions, so they are more likely to be self-reliant than most of the cool season grasses.

Fire team members monitor prescribed burn

Team members view the site.

Native vegetation successfully handles the challenging task of controlling erosion at landfills if the plants are given what they need for success, including fire. In fact, native plants cannot compete with cool season grasses unless there is an occasional fire. Burning eliminates accumulated dead vegetation while stimulating new growth or diversity. The more diverse the prairie planting, the more resistant the native vegetation is to an invasion by non-native or woody vegetation.

Prescribed burns confine the fire to a predetermined area for best environmental results. Appropriate precautionary measures are part of the planning.

After obtaining an open burn permit from the IEPA's Bureau of Air, an expert in prairie vegetation conducted a highly successful prescribed burn March 21, 2001, at the Taylorville Landfill.

The prairie plants continue to serve as efficient erosion control while providing a habitat for wildlife.

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