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DNR starts a fire

Controlled burn improves grassland habitat

April 25, 2012
By Fritz Busch - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - As the sun shone brightly and the temperature climbed past 70 degrees Tuesday afternoon, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees lit and monitored a prescribed burn of native prairie on about 12 acres of land, west and south of the regional office.

Properly implemented and timed, prescribed burning is one of the most effective and economical ways to improve grassland habitat by removing dead plant material and rejuvenating the growth of grasses and forbs (non-grassy herbs), according to the DNR.

"We do prescribed burns each spring and fall on all grassland habitat on a two-year rotational basis," said DNR Fire Supervisor South Tom Romaine of New Ulm.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fire Supervisor Tom Romaine ignites a prescribed burn of native prairie Tuesday at the DNR Regional Headquarters south of New Ulm.

Romaine lit grassfires that quickly spread along a road west and south of DNR Regional Headquarters buildings. Meanwhile, other DNR fire safety personnel stood by with water hoses and other fire-control equipment, just in case they were needed.

Prescribed fire benefits include improved wildlife habitat and native plant communities while reducing vegetation control costs, according to DNR Wildlife Section information.

Fire helps many open-land wildlife species including bluebirds, waterfowl, bobolinks, prairie chickens, Sandhill cranes, and sharp-tailed grouse.

Burning stimulates new grass growth, creating nesting and hiding habitat for birds and other animals, while retarding brush and tree growth, which can overtake open areas and crowd out some animal and plant species.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at



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