This may be the best time of the year for rural Iowa landowners to clean out their overgrown ditches with fire. Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says burning along roadsides now can encourage the growth of sturdy native grasses and it won’t likely disturb many ground nesting birds.Pheasants, for example, often don’t start nesting until late in April and early May. Bogenschutz says most ditches will be safe for burning through April 20th or so, but he says landowners have to use their heads before using the matches. He says don’t burn both sides of the road at the same time, or alternate burning to always leave some habitat if birds are nesting.Bogenschutz says the roadside fires need to be set with extreme caution and monitored constantly.Bogenschutz says it’s a smart idea to call the local fire department or dispatcher before setting a controlled burn. That way a neighbor who calls 9-1-1 likely will not cause a false alarm.
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