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Did you see smoke in the Loess Hills on Wednesday? Here's why that's good.

Posted at 8:59 AM, Nov 16, 2023
  • Pottawattamie County Conservation conducted a prescribed burn at Hitchcock Nature Center on Wednesday. It was visible for miles.
  • It's part of a responsible conservation practice.
  • “Historically, the indigenous people that lived here were burning every year and that became the natural rhythm of the land and it’s much healthier when it happens,” said Chad Graeve, Natural Resource Specialist with Pottawattamie County.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

It is really smoky down there right now, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m southwest Iowa reporter Katrina Markel and I’m at Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa where Pottawattamie County Conservation is doing a prescribed burn.

“I like the term ‘prescribed burns’ vs ‘controlled burning’ because controlled burns implies that we’re in control and, as enamored as we are with ourselves, it’s important to recognize we are not in control, ” said Chad Graeve, Natural Resource Specialist with Pottawattamie County. He says the prairie evolved with fire.

“Historically, the indigenous people that lived here were burning every year and that became the natural rhythm of the land and it’s much healthier when it happens,” said Graeve.

Volunteer Monte Smith was gathering native plant seeds for another county property. He says the burns make a difference.

“Where they do the prescribed burns, it clears out a lot of the underbrush and the other species that would take over and it leaves it open like it used to be. And more native plants can do better that way,” said Smith.

While it was smoky, the park was open.

“This is unbelievable! it appears orcs from Mordor are attacking us! Ruuun,” shouted one little boy who was playing outside the lodge.

Orcs from Mordor were not, in fact, attacking us.

Nor are these fires like catastrophic wildfires on the West Coast. but there were professionals on hand to manage the flames.

“I can tell you from past experience that you don’t want to be hiking around where they’re doing a prescribed burn. It takes very little smoke to get your lungs unhappy,” said Smith.

But watching it? Still pretty cool.

“This is a fire-dependent system that needs fire in order to be healthy and humans are the catalyst for that. Ee’re the ones that put the fire out here and let it do its work,” said Graeve.

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