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State parks in prairie regions take precautions against fires

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Due to the extended drought experienced in many prairie areas, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Trails Division is taking precautions to safeguard state park visitors.

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The precautions include:

--Thirty- to 40-foot control lines that may have been mowed in prairie openings to aid firefighters should a wildfire threaten a park.

--Possible closing of certain prairie trails and restrict campfires on high fire danger/red flag days. Presently, the dry fuels out in the open prairies pose a higher-than-normal risk to park visitors should a wildfire start.

Depending on vegetative conditions, the DNR Parks and Trails staff often conducts pre-burns in early spring around park high-use areas, including campgrounds and picnic areas, to provide for visitor safety. They also conduct prescribed burns to maintain the prairie and savannah communities, which require fire at regular intervals to remain healthy.

"Lack of snow cover this winter prohibited us from conducting spring burns," said Cindy Lueth, Northwest Region Parks and Trails Division resource specialist. "Right now, park visitors may see a patchwork of mowed areas in the park prairie openings. These mowed lines are a tool for firefighters, serving as fire breaks to help slow wildfires that potentially could occur under the current dry conditions. They are there for the safety of park visitors and area residents."

When drought conditions in these areas lessen, area residents and park visitors may see park staff out conducting both safety burns and burns that are critical to maintain prairie and savannah communities in these areas.

For more information on native prairie protection and restoration, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/prairierestoration/ .

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