While parts of Iowa are still underwater, prescribed burns are planned this spring in three northwestern Iowa counties.
It’s a management tool used to help diversify the landscape and create a stable environment in woodlands and grasslands. Pete Hildreth, wildlife bureau supervisor at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says burns are done routinely around the state. “You may see us burning in the spring, you may see us burning in the summer, or even in the fall,” Hildreth says, “and the various timing will determine how the prairie responds to it. So our overall goal is to have a diverse prairie and what we try to do is be diverse with our timing as well.”
This round of burning aims to keep exotic grasses under control, while replenishing the ground with nutrients. Hildreth says removing last year’s grasses is an important part of helping some native species thrive. “There might be some grass species out there that are non-native or exotic and may not be the best for wildlife habitat, or maybe like a pheasant, for example, they need that grassland,” Hildreth says. “Over time, woody enchroachment or trees might grow up and so, using fire sets that back into what we call succession and basically, we keep that prairie a prairie.”
The DNR is planning prescribed burning in Dickinson, Cherokee and O’Brien counties over the next several weeks. The agency burns an area once every four to five years.
(Thanks to Michael Leland, Iowa Public Radio)