(The Center Square) – The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will use a controversial tool in their toolbox for conservation this summer, controlled burns.

For the purposes of ecological preservation, it turns out that sometimes you have to burn nature to preserve nature.

“The Department uses prescribed fire to maintain native grassland habitats, also known as prairies, and to control invasive weeds before seeding and planting native species,” said Bill Kronland, area wildlife manager for the WDFW, in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Working with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, fire districts, and other partners, the WDFW uses professional fire crews experienced in conducting prescribed burns on various lands within the region.

The burns are set to take place over one to five-day periods starting July 10 through mid-October.

Land slated for controlled burns includes the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area Unit northeast of Rochester and the West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area Unit northwest of Tenino. Weather dependent, they will target small areas from seven to 15 acres per burn.

“Portions of the wildlife areas may be closed during the burns and visitors may see smoke from the fires for one to two hours after operations have stopped,” said Bill Kronland, WDFW wildlife area manager. “We will be working hard to minimize smoke impacts to the surrounding community.”

The lowland prairies in the region are “one of the rarest ecosystems in Washington and have been reduced to less than 3% of their former area.”

“[Lowland prairies] support several rare plants and animals including birds, mammals, and butterflies, some of which are listed as threatened or endangered. The Scatter Creek Wildlife Area is part of an integrated system of conservation lands managed to conserve and restore this rare ecosystem,” the news release went on to add.

Other information about the burns, as well as other projects in furtherance of WDFW’s mission “to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities,” can be found on their website.

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