It could be smoky around El Dorado for the next few weeks. March is prime time for prescribed burning and it's absolutely critical in maintaining native tallgrass prairie plants. Until recent times, fire was a natural part of life for our native woodlands, wetlands, and prairies. Ecosystems in the Midwest depend on periodic fire to rejuvenate growth and ensure long-term survival. Our modern tendencies to suppress fire allow invasive plants (weeds) to out-compete our native grasses and forbs, and consequently reduce plant and animal diversity. We see many areas in and around El Dorado where fire has not been allowed to control invasive species, particularly the Eastern Red Cedar. The Cedar can quickly take over once productive tall grass prairie if prescribed burning isn’t done at least every third year. The benefits of fire are enormous. The nutrients that take months or years to decay are within seconds turned to ash and in a form usable to plants. Sunlight warms the blackened ground and stimulates dormant plants to sprout and grow. Grazers are able to feed, uninhibited by dead litter, further stimulating growth. Trees and shrubs with the stems and branches exposed to the intense heat are killed, allowing the ground under them to receive full sunlight once again. So when you're annoyed by the smoke, just remember burning is important and in just a few short weeks, everything will be green again.