Burning Roadsides

Iowans can enhance their roadside vegetation by burning their roadsides.

Benefits to Burning

  1. Stimulate growth and seed production
  2. Reduce competition for native vegetation
  3. Adds nutrients that benefits native species
  4. Noxious weed and brush control
  5. Promotes beneficial plants and insects that will improve wildlife habitat
  6. Reduced vegetation buildup which will decrease wildfire hazards
With controlled fire, not only are you knocking back the undesirable vegetation, you are setting the stage for the success of your desirable species.
Roadside Prescribed Fire

Helpful Burning Tips

Avoid Early Burns (During February and March)

That eliminates residual cover and encourages exotic cool season grasses and noxious weeds.

Avoid Burning Roadsides in November and December

Winter burns eliminate habitat for wildlife and leave ditches exposed to erosion.

Burning Between April 1st - April 20th

This encourages native grasses and discourages exotic cool season species and weeds. Native species provide better habitat for wildlife and prevent the invasion of noxious weed species because of their deep root systems. April burns encourage remnant native grasses and do not impact ground nesting birds, such as pheasants, as most ground nesting birds do not initiate nests until late April and early May.

Conduct Rotational Burns

Rotational burning is the practice of burning separate portions of the road ditch in different years.  This rejuvenates the grasses in the burned segment, while the unburned segment provides undisturbed nesting and escape habitat for wildlife.  A popular scenario is to burn one side of the ditch one year and the other side the next year. 

Follow Safety Precautions

Contact neighbors, county roadside department, and the fire department before burning. Be careful of roadside utility poles, telephone junction boxes and pipelines. Make sure winds are blowing away from any roadway.  Burns should not be conducted on windy days. Never start a fire when the county is in a red flag warning or a burn ban. Remember you are liable for any damage your controlled burn may cause so please be careful while burning.