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Prescribed burn keeps Kresge Foundation prairie healthy, invasives at bay

General Foundation News

Flames crackled within a few feet of The Kresge Foundation’s headquarters Saturday afternoon – and everyone was smiling.

The prescribed burn of the foundation’s native prairie grass and wetland landscape is an annual event that helps invigorate native plant species and keep invasive species from crowding them out.


Native plants have evolved to tolerate, and even thrive under, the burn-and-regenerate cycle that occurs naturally in Michigan when lightning and other factors spark blazes. With fire largely controlled, invasive plants that would never survive fire can choke out native species. Simulating the fire cycle helps return the competitive advantage to the local flora, providing ecosystem services from pollinators and other beneficial critters.


The blaze was carefully controlled by a crew of professionals from David Borneman LLC, of Ann Arbor and overseen by the Troy Fire Department. Borneman has conducted more than 400 burns on 10,000 acres of public and private land since 2000. The burns take place on weekends when the office buildings that surround the Kresge campus are mostly unoccupied. The fire is designed to minimize smoke and direct it away from sensitive areas.

Native plants like wild columbine, little bluestem and bottle brush grass populate the Kresge prairie and restored wetland, part of a unique three-acre headquarters site anchored by an 1850s-era farmhouse, restored barn and vintage windmills.

The foundation treats and reuses almost all the stormwater that falls on the property, heats and cools most of the buildings with geothermal heat, and will soon activate rooftop solar panels that will supply almost 10 percent of the organization’s electricity needs. The site is tucked incongruously in the midst of towering office buildings along the busy Big Beaver Road commercial corridor in Troy.