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Cattle ranchers learn basics of marsh burning

News Release Distributed 10/31/12

GRAND LAKE, La. – Cattle owners and ranch managers in Cameron Parish learned the basics of smoke management in prescribed burns used to control coastal marsh vegetation.

Niels De Hoop, LSU AgCenter forestry specialist, said prescribed burning is a tool used by foresters and sugarcane farmers and in marshland for cattle at a meeting here on Oct. 30. But the smoke resulting from intentional fires can become a problem if guidelines are not followed, he said.

Louisiana state law has established a certification for prescribed burns. “It all came out of concerns for liability,” De Hoop said.

Certification means a burn manager cannot be held liable unless negligence can be shown, De Hoop explained, but the law has never been tested in court.

After the class, participants were tested in order to receive their certifications. A burn management class also was held earlier in the month in Lafayette.

De Hoop said currently separate trainings and certifications are used for sugarcane, forestry and marshland burning, but an effort under way may consolidate training and certification for all three uses of prescribed burns.

Andy Nyman, AgCenter coastal marshland specialist, said burning marshland reduces the fuel from dead plant material and improves marsh grass quality. He said marshes need to be burned every five years. Naturally occurring fires from lightning are not as effective now because roads and canals have limited the size of fires.

Nyman discussed the best times to burn, with consideration to wind speed and direction, humidity and water levels.

Nyman said plant roots hold soils, making them essential for maintaining marsh and minimizing land subsidence. Burning enhances the volume of organic material, he said.

Bruce Schultz

Last Updated: 10/31/2012 3:23:31 PM

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