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Prescribed burns set for 20 waterfowl areas

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Returning birds and melting snow are sure signs of spring in the Midwest. Natural resource professionals are also preparing for another spring ritual, the start of the prescribed fire season.

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From early April to mid-June, staff at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's St. Croix Wetland Management District in New Richmond will be mobilizing crews of firefighters and equipment for scheduled burns at 20 Waterfowl Production Areas in St. Croix, Polk and Dunn counties.

Each year the Fish and Wildlife Service uses prescribed fire to improve wildlife habitat on more than 400,000 acres of the National Wildlife Refuge System including the Waterfowl Production Areas in local counties.

This year, the St. Croix Wetland Management District has prescribed fires planned at these locations: Hanten in Stanton, Rock Creek, Clear Lake, Alden, Amschler in Stanton, Ten Mile in Richmond, Betterly in Erin Prairie, Bierbrauer in Stanton, Kostka in Cylon, Bass Lake in Somerset, Suckett in Alden, Star Prairie in Stanton, Prairie Flats South in Star Prairie, Houghdahl North in Black Brook, Deer Park in Cylon, Flaters in Alden, Houghdahl South in Alden, Kerber in Warren, Three Lakes in Warren and Iron Creek in Red Cedar.

Prescribed burns rejuvenate the prairie by consuming accumulated dead vegetation, stimulating new growth and controlling non-native plants. In turn, wildlife enjoy higher quality habitat conditions for nesting, protection and a more abundant food supply. In addition, prescribed burns help protect neighbors if a wildfire should occur since periodic controlled burns reduce fuel loads. This lowers the threat to private land in the event of wildfire.

All fires are carefully planned and effort is taken to cause as little inconvenience to residents as possible. Officials prefer to burn when the prevailing winds carry smoke away from homes and busy roads, but this becomes more difficult as more homes are built adjacent to public wildlife areas. Despite best efforts, smoke occasionally crosses a road, but preparation is taken with road signs and trained personnel to provide for public safety if smoke impacts a road.

For more information, call the St. Croix Wetland Management District Office at (715) 246-7784, or visit www.fws.gov.

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