5/21/19 – As many of us who enjoy the BWCA know, fire is a natural part of the environment and serves a purpose in reviving and maintaining ecosystems. Perhaps you have paddled west of Sawbill and seen the aftermath of the Pagami Creek Fire of 2011 or maybe you seen the charred remains of another forest fire that has affected the Boundary Waters. The US Forest Service has many ways to help control and prevent these fires, one of which is Prescribed burning. Prescribed burning, otherwise known as controlled burning, or prescribed fire, is the controlled application of fire to a predetermined area. This practice has been a tool of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 1995 and is used widely across the country in forests, flatlands, and prairies to benefit the ecosystem of the area. Here in northern Minnesota, it is mostly used as a prevention for wildfires, burning brush, shrubs, and small trees that would fuel large fires, but it also promotes the new growth of native species, helps the habitats of plants and animals that rely on periodic fires, and removes the slash and debris following forest management activities. There is a prescribed burn scheduled for today, May 21st, at Plouff Creek about 7 miles from Sawbill, totaling 55 acres of burned area if the conditions are correct. So if you are in the area and see smoke rising, don’t panic, but rest assured that the Forest Service is make our area a safer and healthier ecosystem.