JOPLIN, Mo. — Winter time is the ideal season to clean up grassland areas in the Four States.

How is controlled burning safe and productive for wildlife?

Conservationists use this method to clear out non-native plants in preparation for new growth in the spring.

Francis Skalicky, Missouri Department of Conservation Media Specialist, said, “We would have staff everywhere to make sure all the fire lines are in place. We would watch that fire throughout the course of its burning.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation uses controlled burning throughout Missouri.

Prescribed fire helps clear out non-native plants from grassland and glade areas.

Native plants, then have a better chance of survival for the spring season.

“Native plants tend to have long deep root systems. Non-native plants, not so deep. The fire helps get rid of that. It also helps get rid of woody vegetation, that obviously in a prairie, in an area where you want a lot of grasses, you don’t want trees, shrubs, and things like that.”

Conservationists can only burn on days when conditions are right.

Leif Hasty, Reddings Mill Fire Department Captain, said, “Humidity is the first thing we look at. Anything below 28 to 35 percent is typically your bad range, so, and then your winds … anything around 10 to 15 is enough to push fire, move it through fields and through leaves.”

Controlled burning is deemed safe for wildlife, by the Conservation Department, because it usually takes place from December through early March.

That way, wildlife is mostly dormant at this time.

“The plant material obviously it’s dry, it’s very good burning. Wildlife is either hibernating, migrated, or the stuff that’s around the animal they can flee,” said Skalicky.

The Missouri Department of Conservation states that a majority of wildlife is actually on private property.

That means, land owners can practice control burning.

Always make sure to call your local fire department before doing so.

“Early notification for us means that we get to put it in our system, we know it’s a controlled burn, we know where we’re going to go, so we kind of can have it in the back of our heads of if we’re going to this location, we know it’s going to be this kind of topography, this kind of fuel, and this kind of fire we are going to fight,” said Hasty.

Before starting a controlled burn, call your local fire department to make sure weather conditions are appropriate.

The Missouri Department of Conservation hosts control burn workshops for those interested in a safe and productive way to burn on their private property.