Controlled burns to take place on Rice Lake Plains this April

April 17, 2024
Cobourg, Ontario


Nature Conservancy of Canada and partners to carry out prescribed fires as part of ongoing tall grass prairie habitat restoration

Controlled burns will take place this April on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Van Hove, Red Cloud School Road, Webber and Hazel Bird nature reserves, all of which are within the Rice Lake Plains. These burns will help restore globally rare tall grass prairie and savannah habitat in natural areas within Northumberland County and support numerous species at risk that depend on this habitat type, such as eastern meadowlark and eastern hognose snake.

Controlled, or prescribed, burns are professionally managed fires that burn across a pre-determined area under strictly controlled circumstances to accomplish a certain ecological goal, such as restoring natural habitat. Fire is an effective way to clear scrub, brush and unwanted weeds, allowing sunlight to reach the soil where native grass and wildflower seeds lie. These native prairie species typically flourish following a fire, helping restore native grassland habitat, such as that of the Rice Lake Plains area. Fire also removes invasive species that compete with native species for nutrients and water. Burning only occurs under specific weather conditions will allow for a safe, controlled fire.

The upcoming prescribed burns conducted on the Rice Lake Plains will be carried out by trained professionals on suitable days in April. These ecologically beneficial burns will be managed by NCC and Lands & Forests Consulting, an independent prescribed burn consulting firm. Detailed burn plans, fire permits and insurance are obtained in advance for each site. Depending on weather and wind conditions, the burns may occur during daytime or nighttime hours.

For safety reasons, the public will not be allowed access to the nature reserves during the burn period. Media representatives and the public are welcome to observe burning operations from a safe location, which will be determined by fire control staff.

These prescribed burns are part of ongoing habitat restoration efforts by the Rice Lake Plains Partnership (ricelakeplains.ca). The Rice Lake Plains partners have been safely and successfully conducting prescribed burns and cooperating with local fire officials for over 16 years.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada, through the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Projects like the Rice Lake Plains Partnership showcase how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. Conserving and restoring nature helps ensure healthy futures for wildlife and people, bolstering our ability to thrive in a changing world. In the past two years alone, NCC has influenced the protection of more than one million hectares (almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, the organization will double its impact by mobilizing people and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation. In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either without nature conservation. Nature makes it possible.


  • Many tall grass prairie plant species, such as black oak, big bluestem and New Jersey tea, are well adapted to withstand fire, as the roots and growing points of these plants remain unaffected underground. Meanwhile, fire kills plants that are not adapted to tolerate burning, such as non- prairie weeds.
  • This project will improve biodiversity and benefit many species, such as eastern hognose snake, grasshopper sparrow, black oak and yellow pimpernel.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner, NCC works with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our country’s most important natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought people together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares.

The Rice Lake Plains Partnership includes organizations such as Alderville Black Oak Savanna, Ontario Parks, Northumberland County and Northumberland Land Trust who, along with NCC, steward tall grass prairie habitats using fire as an ecological restoration tool and will be conducting burns this spring across Northumberland County as well.

Find photos and video here.

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Brianne Curry
Communications Manager, Ontario
C: 519-520-1340

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