Smoke from prescribed burns may be visible in the central Sandhills in coming weeks, as fire Managers on the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest conduct a series of burns beginning the week of April 5 and continuing through May 8, as weather conditions allow. 

The broadcast burns are planned on up to 10,000 acres of native grasslands in the Bessey Ranger District, spokeswoman Cydney Janssen said

The prescribed burns are intended to reduce the encroachment of Eastern red cedar trees into the native prairie. 

The staff of the district have cut and piled about 3,000 acres of large Eastern red cedar trees off the grasslands on the Bessey Ranger District. Experience shows that broadcast burning kills about 90% of young Eastern red cedar trees, three feet tall or less, and up to half of the larger red cedars. Because burns can cover large acreages, it is the most economical method of preventing cedar encroachment, Janssen said.

Low-intensity fire is a natural disturbance process that can rejuvenate grasslands and promote forbs that support pollinators.

Janssen said prescribed fires are managed with the safety of firefighters and the public as the first priority.

Smoke from the prescribed burns may be visible from Thedford, Dunning, Stapleton, Purdum, Neb. Highway 2, U.S. Highway 83, and other areas around the Middle Loup and Dismal Rivers. 

Lingering smoke may be present for up to a week after ignitions are complete, Janssen said.

Notification of operations are posted on a Facebook page on the day of the prescribed burn (