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DNR plans at least 19 grass fires in region to improve wildlife habitat

A DNR employee uses a drip torch to set fire to old vegetation along a stream. DNR photo.

BALDWIN - Where there is smoke, there is fire, but out in the fields and meadows, this is not always a bad thing.

As the flames race across the field, the fire consumes dead vegetation, invasive species and other harmful plants, leaving a mineral rich coating of ash on soil that is newly exposed to the sun's energy. This will spur the growth of hardy native plants, creating wildlife habitat while making it more difficult for invasive species to gain ground.

The key is to make sure the fire stops before it crosses property boundaries. In the state Department of Natural Resources these are called controlled burns or prescribed burns. They occur under strict guidelines and only when weather conditions are favorable. They are a common tool used by wildlife biologists to preserve the richness and diversity of state-managed properties.

Safely burning off dead vegetation reduces the risk of wildfires.

There are 19 properties totaling 907 acres slated for burning in Polk, St. Croix and Pierce counties this spring by staff from DNR's Baldwin field office and from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

In St. Croix County:

Oden Wildlife Area, 60 acres

Emerald Valley Wildlife Area, 50 acres

Nagel Wildlife Area, 60 acres

Casey Lk Wildlife Area, 100 acres

Hammond Cemetery, 2 acres

Willow River State Park, 100 acres

Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. 20 acres

Pleasant Valley Fish and Wildlife Area, 40 acres

Lundy Pond Wildlife Area, 50 acres

St.Croix Islands Wildlife Area, 20 acres

Simon Prairie Wildlife Area, 5 acres

Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area-St. Croix County, 40 acres

Star Prairie Seed Nursery, 20 acres

Polk County:

Western Prairie Habitat Restoration Area-Polk County, 170 acres

Pierce County:

Kinnickinnic River State Park, 70 acres

Rush River Rod and Gun Club, 30 acres

Private land, Tom Petta, 30 acres

Kinnickinnic River Fishery Area, Southfork, 40 acres

Parcels are typically burned on a two-to-five-year rotation and vary in size from 2 to 340 acres.

Prescribed burns also stimulate prairie grass growth and improve habitat for upland game and waterfowl, create pockets of open water for waterfowl amidst cattails proliferating in low areas, improve cover type for upland nesting birds, such as pheasants and improve vegetative growth for songbirds, and help preserve grasslands and native flora, plant species sustained by natural fires prior to intensive European settlement.

For more information regarding prescribed burning or specifics about an individual burn site contact DNR wildlife staff at the Baldwin Service Center at 715-684-2914 or the USFWS at 715-246-7784.