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Iowa DNR begins annual spring prescribed burns

Photo Courtesy of Iowa Department of Natural Resources

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will be conducting prescribed burns this spring on a number of wildlife management areas.

Prescribed burns are used to improve wildlife habitat, control invasive plant species, restore and maintain native plant communities, reduce wildfire potential, and vary in size from a few acres to several hundred acres. Areas are typically burned every one to five years. The DNR will conduct prescribed burns this spring in Linn, Johnson, Benton, Iowa, Tama, Cedar and Mahaska counties.

DNR Wildlife Biologist Matt Dollison recently told KMA Radio that many precautions are taken when deciding whether it’s a good time to burn. He specifically points to wind speed.

“So, we’re looking for greater than 5 mph,” said Dollison, “because if it’s less than 5 mph, a dead calm day, you can actually get a lot of variability in what wind you do get. So, it’s kind of unpredictable. We like to have at least 5 mph, generally, depending on the unit. But then, the top wind speed is 15-to-20 mph. We can get up to 20 mph in units where we have really good fire breaks, or whatever’s downwind is not going to burn, things like that.”

Dollison says prescribed burns typically begin mid to late morning and are completed by late afternoon or early evening between late March and late May. Burns will be conducted on a day that meets the objectives and weather conditions defined in the burn plan.

“Some seasons will have a number of great days, where you get right into the prescription,” said Dollison, “with some rains every now and then that keep you out of burn bans, things like that. Then other years, it’s rainy the whole time. You get a really limited window. So, you don’t get in as many acres burned. But, we prioritize that really high right now. That’s number one. If it’s a good day to burn, we’re going to be burning.”

The DNR says any prescribed burns that are not able to be completed this spring will be considered for the burn schedule next fall.