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Spring Prescribed Fires to Begin on the Superior National Forest

Duluth, Minn., April 26, 2023-The Superior National Forest will begin spring prescribed burns when weather and conditions allow. Due to the lingering winter conditions, prescribed fire has been pushed back this year.

The Forest has prescribed fire plans developed to burn up to 7,000 acres; however, burning all planned acres depends on many factors such as weather and vegetation conditions, fire staff availability, and other considerations.

Why use prescribed burning? Prescribed fires help reduce hazardous fuel build up and the risk of intense wildfire. In addition, they improve and maintain forest health and wildlife habitat and eliminate invasive species. The meadow and forest ecosystems in northeastern Minnesota are fire-dependent and rely on periodic fires to stay healthy. Prescribed fire also is culturally significant to indigenous people of this area.

"Fire is natural, and it needs to be part of the solution. Putting fire back on the landscape will rejuvenate areas needed for indigenous people to exercise their treaty rights by creating better habitat to hunt and gather and improve forest conditions. We have been burning in this area and across the nation for centuries and we know it works."–Damon Panek-Fond du Lac Wildfire Operations Specialist

How do we plan? Prescribed burning is planned for various units across the two-million-acre portion of the Forest (prescribed burns in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness are planned separately), however the window of opportunity for prescribed burning is very small. Safety factors, weather conditions, air quality, personnel availability and environmental regulations are continually monitored before the burn to determine feasibility of moving forward with the prescribed burn, during and after the burn.

"Depending on the fuels and weather conditions, the prescribed fire units could be burned starting as early as April 18 through June or July of 2022. Prescribed fires will begin on the western half of the Forest in oak-blueberry units to stimulate blueberry production. Next, we'll focus on meadow burns, then under burning in forest stands to reduce excess fuel build-up," said Nick Petrack, West Zone Fire Management Officer.

Public notifications: Prior to initiating the prescribed fires, fire professionals assess conditions, conduct a test burn and notify local governments and interested publics via email. If a larger burn is planned and it is likely to create visible smoke, is near a road or a community, the Forest will additionally use social media and the Forest website to inform the public about prescribed burn activity.

Safety and monitoring: Trained fire professionals who have studied fire behavior and fire control techniques conduct these burns to ensure the safety of the burn crew, nearby residents, and property.

"Safety of our firefighters and the public is always our number one priority. We only conduct the prescribed burns if conditions allow. We typically do not complete all of the prescribed burns we have planned in a given year because the window for burning is short and conditions must be just right on-the-ground," Petrack added.

Benefits of prescribed burning as a forest management tool:

• Protects communities and infrastructure by reducing hazardous fuels and the risk of high intensity wildfires.

• Improves and supports wildlife habitat for many species on the forest including kestrel, woodcock, moose, white tail deer, black bear, meadow vole and the rare Nabokov blue butterfly.

• Limits the spread of invasive plant species and maintains native ecosystems.

• Promotes the growth of trees, plants, and wildflowers, and the wild blueberry crop.

• Continues the historic fire regime of frequent disturbance by fire.

• Preserves a cultural activity of indigenous Treaty Bands in this area.

For safety of our pilots and firefighters, we ask everyone to refrain from using drones in fire areas. Remember, when you fly, we cannot. Please, keep drones away from wildfires!

For more information about the status of prescribed fires, please visit the Superior National Forest website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

If you have questions about planned burns on the Kawishiwi, La Croix or Laurentian districts, please call (218)248-2411. For questions about planned fires on Tofte or Gunflint districts, please call (218)387-1750.


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