Without the use of prescribed burning as a management too, Wisconsin could lose many of its native grassland, wetland, and woodland plant communities. For thousands of years, vast, sweeping wildfires, set primarily by Native Americans, were as much a part of the pre-settlement Wisconsin environment as rain, drought and the passing of the seasons. Because frequent fire played a significant role in the development of much of Wisconsin's native plant communities for thousands of years, many plant and animal species now depend on fire for their continued existence.
For example, prairie grasses and flowers develop deep roots and buds beneath the soil, enabling them to withstand the heat of a fire while shallow rooted invasive brush succumbs. In addition, our oak ecosystems rely on fire to remove accumulated leaf litter, dead trees and invading brush, maintaining the open character of oak savannas, and in general, keeping oak on the landscape. These fires have been all but eliminated in Wisconsin in the last 150 years.