- Kelly Whitmoyer and Sandy McNamara
What's the Burn About?
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Recently, you may have seen ominous plumes of smoke rising up across rural Montana as ditches and entire fields are being purposely torched. If you are new here, you may find this unsettling and wonder what’s going on.
Fear not; if you’re blessed to be a rural landowner, you’ll likely soon find yourself participating in this centuries old land maintenance practice that is a vital part of rural Montana life.
Each spring, when the ground is still somewhat wet and the air is humid, farmers, ranchers and rural landowners use controlled burns to prepare their land for the upcoming grow season and revitalize the ground. Burning has many benefits. It breaks down undecomposed plant matter from previous years, releasing nutrients to the ground, promoting new growth. It helps manage noxious weeds and pests such as ticks and parasitic worms.
Landowners who participate in this land management practice follow some simple best practices among which include first notifying the county of intent and obtaining a burn permit. They will never leave a fire unattended (this seems obvious, but you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get distracted or tempted to be called away). They're mindful of structures, and never burn on a windy day. Burning on a windy day or when it is too dry can become a quick recipe for disaster. It is also not uncommon to see a landowner coordinating with the local fire department to ensure their fire stays under control.
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"I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze of growing . . . " (Enkindled spring, by DH Lawrence)
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