MDC conducts prescribed burns across southeast region Wednesday and Thursday

News from the region
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is conducting several prescribed burns across the southeast region Wednesday and Thursday, taking advantage of a slim window of optimum weather conditions. Weather permitting, MDC employees will conduct prescribed burns Wednesday and Thursday on the following conservation areas: Seventy-six CA, Crowley’s Ridge CA, General Watkins, CA, Holly Ridge CA, Graves Mountain CA, Marquand Access, Amidon Memorial CA, and University Forest CA. Employees will also assist private landowners with prescribed burns.

“Depending on weather conditions, what we would normally spread across a two-month period, we’re conducting in a smaller window of just a couple of days, due to weather conditions,” said MDC’s Southeast Regional Forestry Supervisor Rocky Hayes. “We’ve had wet weather leading up to this point and it looks like more wet weather coming in, so we’ve got to get it done now.”

Hayes said MDC staff from across the region are pulling together to help each other out. “It’s an all hands-on deck effort,” he said.

Prescribed burning, or fire, is an ancient technique used to manage grasslands, forests, and old fields for forage production and improvement of wildlife habitat. Used first by Native Americans, the technique is now used and taught by the MDC across the state.

“This is a low-cost method to improve wildlife habitat, reduce fuel for wildfire, and decrease the spread of invasive plant species,” said Hayes.

MDC, the U. S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Missouri State Parks typically burn a combined total of more than 100,000 acres of public land each year if weather and conditions are suitable.

Hayes said it’s important that people understand the distinction between wildfire and prescribed burning. Prescribed burning is carefully planned and controlled. A “burn plan” is essential in using fire as a management tool. It includes the burn’s objectives—what results are intended by burning. The plan also sets requirements for weather conditions before and during the burn, and includes considerations for smoke dispersal and contingency plans in case the fire escapes the designated area. Trained personnel and equipment must be available to conduct the burn safely and then evaluate the area to see that the fire met its objectives.

For more than 30 years, MDC has used fire as a vegetation management tool. The intensity of prescribed burns is noticeably less than wildfires, but the response by vegetation and animal life is often dramatic. Many plant and animal species that were long absent repopulate the area within and near the burn area.

Hayes said most of the prescribed burns over the next couple of days will be smaller than 40 acres, but the public may notice them, especially since there will be several going at once. Questions may be directed to MDC’s Southeast Regional Office at (573)290-5730. General information about prescribed burns can be found at