Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Much-needed moisture in easternKansas these past two winters has set the stage for a more typical Flint Hillstall grass pasture burn scenario in 2014. More growth on these grasslands, vital to the Kansas livestock industry,boosts the potential for higher smoke emissions than we have seen for a while.

While this burn season looks to bechallenging, landowners now have new tools to help them manage fire andgrasslands. For burns to be conducted safely and effectively, weather andrangeland conditions must be right.  Ranchers have a lot of factors to consider intiming their burning operations, but progress on the Flint Hills SmokeManagement Plan offers them practical help.

Keeping smoke from pasture burnsfrom causing air-quality problems around urban areas like Wichita and KansasCity depends on individuals planning their burns this spring to make informeddecisions. Fortunately, Kansas and the EPA, working in partnership for the pastcouple years with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the Flint Hills, haveshown how good stewardship should reduce the impacts of smoke on downwindcommunities.

It will be important for the KansasFlint Hills ranchers and land managers to take advantage of the modeling toolson the Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Managementwebsite, www.ksfire.org to determine when weather conditionsare best for burning in relation to air quality impacts. A mobile deviceversion is also available to provide more accessibility to the information.Region 7 encourages ranchers and land managers to take advantage of theseresources to spread out their burns more effectively to manage the potentialair quality impacts.

EPAappreciates the stakeholders' efforts in forming key partnerships, implementingthe Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan (SMP), and the Kansas Department ofHealth and Environment's (KDHE) support of the ksfire.org website. The SMP isdesigned to support public health, the tallgrass ecosystem, agriculture and sustainthe need for fire as a management tool. Kansans devised this reasonable,home-grown science-based policy that acknowledges the important role ofagricultural burning. Ultimately, best burn practices can help reduce impactson air quality.

Thecommittee responsible for developing the SMP was co-chaired by Senator CarolynMcGinn, Representative Tom Moxley and the Director of the Division of theEnvironment at KDHE, John Mitchell, and included a wide range of stakeholdersincluding the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Fire Marshal, KansasDivision of Emergency Management, Kansas Forest Service, Kansas StateUniversity, City of Wichita, Johnson County, Natural Resources ConservationService, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Farm Bureau, Tallgrass LegacyAlliance, County Extension Offices, The Nature Conservancy, American LungAssociation (Wichita), Kansas Prescribed Fire Council/KS Grazing LandsCoalition, Kansas State Firefighters Association, Kansas Emergency ManagersAssociation, Audubon of Kansas and the Kansas Forage and Grasslands Council.

Clean air is one of our mostprecious resources. Since 2004, EPA has been working with Kansans' to exploreapproaches to burning that would reduce the impacts of ozone and particulatematter on public health. When large amounts of acreage are burned in acondensed period of time, unhealthy levels of particulate matter and substancesthat can form ozone are released into the air. These pollutants can impact therespiratory systems of all who breathe in the smoke, especially children withasthma, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing heart or lung diseases.

The goal of this important partnershipand smoke management plan is to balance public health impacts with theecological and economical need for prescribed burning.

Karl Brooks is administrator for U.S. EPA Region 7 that includes Iowa,Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and nine tribal nations.  He is a resident of Lawrence, Kan.

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