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Area agencies conducting controlled burns

People looking for a nice walk and some fresh air around Silver Lake on April 12 endured the annual prairie burn around the lake. The smoke and smell did not seem to bother some folks as traffic around the lake continued and some even stopped to watch workers from Prairie Restorations Inc. of Cannon Falls burn off last year's growth.

Before the weather turned rainy and windy last week, several governmental agencies had started their spring rounds of prescribed burns in the area to get rid of invading vegetation in parks, wildlife areas and along roads.

Expect to see those plumes of smoke rise again soon, as controlled burns will continue when ideal weather conditions return, agency leaders say.

The parks departments for the city of Rochester and Olmsted County have begun controlled burning in some areas, including the Silver Lake area, Quarry Hill Park and Chester Woods Park.

"They've probably burned 40 acres already, maybe close to 50," said Olmsted County Parks Superintendent Tom Ryan. "But they've shut down for the week because of the change in weather."

He said the county will be burning brush in Oxbow Park soon, and the other parks when conditions become drier and winds die down.


The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has conducted some burns in its parks and wildlife management areas, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to conduct burns along the following roadways as soon as the weather permits, said Kristin Kammueller, a MnDOT spokeswoman.

• Minnesota Highway 218 near Blooming Prairie.

• Interstate 90 near Eyota.

• Minnesota Highway 56 between LeRoy and Rose Creek.

• Interstate 35 near Albert Lea.

Ryan said individual land owners can do their own prescribed burns, and some do. However, he strongly recommended that people get training before they try it.

"And they most definitely have to learn the permit process," he added.

Workers for the DNR's Whitewater Wildlife Management Area near Elba, Minn., along with volunteer helpers from the Minnesota Conservation Corps, have burned about 300 acres of brush, said Bob Tangen, assistant wildlife area manager, adding that there's a lot more to do in the Whitewater WMA.


"We've got one bigger burn and then some smaller ones, so, we probably have another 500 acres to burn," Tangen said. "It's mostly rejuvenating or creating prairie grass conditions. It helps clear out any brush that's invading into the open ground and makes a better stand of native grasses in the future."

In the Whitewater WMA, Tangen hopes to get rid of species like buck thorn, box elder, sumac and some other tree species, he said.

"We're just trying to keep it in an open grassland condition instead of it growing up into woods," he said.

He said workers for Whitewater State Park, which is adjacent to the WMA, likely will conduct some controlled burns this spring as well.

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