FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Areas of land at the Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve were burned on Tuesday as part of an effort to clear areas of land where dead plant material is present.

Maraiah Russell, preserves and programs manager for the non-profit Little River Wetlands Project, said these controlled burns are done every three years and they rotate on which sections of land they burn.

A total of 45 acres was burned. Eagle Marsh has been doing this since 2011.

“The burning of land is to help cleanup wooded material in the prairies and wetland areas,” Russell said. “We put in bare soil to make room for native seeds which are comprised of flowers, grasses and sedges.”

The controlled burns were conducted by Blue Heron Ministries, a non-profit Christian land conservation organization based in Angola. For this year’s burns, two sections of the wetlands were selected to be burned.

She said the goal of the burning is to restore the natural habitat of the land and the ecosystem.

“It helps mimic the processes of the ecosystem and get a handle on the habitat of the land,” she said.

The grasses in wetlands can get tall and thick and the dead plants stick there while the new plants rise once spring comes. If the dead plants aren’t removed from the area, they can build up and creates a plant carpet, making it difficult for the new plants to grow.

“The burns can help target the invasive seeds and give us a clean slate,” she said. “This will help them rise and get the necessary sunlight they need.”

She believes controlled burns are the best practice for restoring and preserving natural habitats.

Eagle Marsh is not the only place that conducts this practice. LC Nature Park in Roanoke does it as well along with private land owners to help restore their properties.

The controlled burns are done in the late winter and early spring before other species who live in the wetlands emerge when it gets warmer.

“We do it while it’s still cold. We also do it away from nearby waters so animals have a place for refuge while the burns happen and they aren’t affected by it,” she said.

The burns occurred from the north line of the land all the way to the eastern end of Eagle Marsh.

The plants in the wetlands take up to 2-4 weeks to reemerge after the burns.