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Controlled fire burns new life into Forest Park

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)
A staff member of DJM Ecological Services monitors a controlled burn of an area of Forest Park on Dec. 2, 2011.

About 14 acres of Forest Park burned today as part of a new effort to naturally maintain its wildlife areas.

Clouds of white smoke wafted above Kingshighway as fire consumed acres of dry grass and brush in a north-east area of Forest Park.  Peter VanLinn, a park ecologist says this is the first controlled burn in the park's 135-year history.

"A lot of the plants and species here are adapted to this kind of disturbance," VanLinn said. "What it does is the fire goes through and it burns up a lot of the dead plant debris. That releases a lot of nutrients into the soil which helps promote wild fire growth in the next spring and coming years."

VanLinn says controlled burns are a cost effective and time efficient way to maintain the park's wildlife areas. He says he hopes to rotate burn areas throughout the park seasonally.

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