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Controlled burns ongoing to rejuvenate prairie lands

Tyler Litton uses a drip torch Monday as he conducts a prescribed fire in a waterfowl production area west of Willmar on land managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service out of Litchfield. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

The cloud of smoke seen in the distance does not always indicate a sign of trouble, rather smoke can signify renewal of the prairie.

In March, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff throughout the Midwest began using controlled burns to rejuvenate prairie, woodland and wetland habitats by consuming accu- mulated dead vegetation, stimulating new growth and controlling non-native plants.

Periodic controlled burns also reduce hazardous fuel loads and ultimately the threat of wildfire to adjacent private lands.

Local prescribed fires conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service out of Litchfield are ongoing. The burns are carefully planned, the service says.

Controlled burns are typically conducted when prevailing winds carry smoke away from homes and busy roads, but this strategy becomes challenging as more homes are constructed adjacent to parcels of land called Waterfowl Production Areas. These areas are managed by the service.

The regional controlled burn program is regarded as one of the best in the nation, the service states.

For more information, visit: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/litchfield wetland/

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