White’s Lane Conservation Area, a twelve acre property, is made up of four separate gifts given to Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT) in the mid ‘80s to mid ‘90s. The property boasts over 1,000 feet of waterfront wetlands along the River. There is a small number of parking spaces on site and paths cut through the native grasses that will take you around the property. As White’s Lane is a private way, please remember to be respectful of the homeowners surrounding the land and drive slowly.
In 2009, OCT received a large state funded grant in order to restore the natural flora to a meadow habitat, and along with that created multiple terrapin turtle gardens. With the funds from the grant, the land was repopulated with big bluestem grass and wildflowers, creating a large field habitat that is ideal for many types of small mammals, bugs and birds. There are multiple sand turtle gardens close to the two waterfront edges the land sits upon made for the threatened diamondback terrapin turtles. The turtles seemed to enjoy the newly made gardens, and in 2014 there were nearly 60 hatchlings. The Massachusetts Audobon Society schedules volunteers to check the gardens both morning and evening during the spring to watch for females laying eggs.
While the property is usually calm, it was abuzz in November during an OCT hosted prescribed burn. The burn was carried out as part of the Barnstable County Wildlife Preparedness plan, through a collaboration with Dave Crary, Fire Management Officer of the Cape Cod National Seashore; Molly Mullaney, Fire Technician of the Cape Cod National Seashore; the AmeriCorps Cape Cod FireCorps crew; the Orleans Fire Department; and Josh Nigro, District 1 DCR Forest Fire Control Warden. Prior to burning a progressive hoselay was placed around the property to contain and later mop up the fire. The forecasted evening rain helped the crew mop up after the burn was completed.
Prescribed burns are now known to be an extremely healthy component of managing certain ecosystems, and includes many ecological benefits. A major benefit of burns is reducing the fire hazard of the burned area. Cape Cod ranks among the highest risk for wildfires in the U.S., due to its vegetation type, sandy soil, and high winds. For decades, we as a society have suppressed the number of wildfires that would naturally occur, causing plants to able to grow without restraint and for large amounts of ground litter cover to accumulate. By burning under controlled settings, firefighters have a better handle of the fire and are more easily able to protect personal property, and thus reduce the amount of available fuel in the event of a wildfire.
By proactively burning, we not only reduce the risk of unmanaged wildfires, we also revitalize the ecosystem. The nutrients in the plants burned will stay in the area as ash, revitalizing new growth of the plants in the disturbed area. Big bluestem, the predominant species, is known to recover easily from fire damage. Furthermore, invasive species are less fire tolerant, meaning the burn will help control invasive species growing in the area. Prescribed burns mimic the normal role fire plays in ecosystems, leading to a healthier environment.
So make sure to check out the property throughout the next year to watch how the regrowth of the habitat progresses. If you would like more information on prescribed burns join us on Monday, February 1st at the Orleans Yacht Club to hear a lecture by Kate Sullivan about burning in the National Seashore, or head to: http://www.smokeybear.com/prescribed-fires.asp