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Special to the Post Dispatch—
Wednesday, Feb. 26, smoked rolled down the Caprock from West Highway 380.
Brent Mason, a local farmer, was behind the large fire that had multiple individuals pulling over on the side of the road to watch in awe.
“I’m just burning some CRP land,” Mason said.
CRP land is acreage that has been enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Program which is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
In the program, farmers agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality in turn for a yearly rental payment. In Texas alone, there are more than 3 million acres that are enrolled under the 10 to 15-year CRP contracts.
Since being signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, CRP has helped improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and increase habitat for endangered species.
Mason covered his 75 acres on a John Deere Gator with a propane tank attached to a weed burner and a 40-gallon water spray tank in the back.
Moving in a winding path, Mason lit large stretches of the field with ease.
“I zig zag so that it burns faster,” he explained.
Often referred to as “prescribed burning,” the controlled burn is used to balance the forbs and grasses by reducing the thatch layer, promoting grass tillering and reducing the potential for wildfire. It also helps create open ground for wildlife movement and structural diversity for enhancing grassland bird habitats.
As drivers would pull to the side of the road and watch, Mason would wave, continuing his tedious work
After watching the land char over, Mason scouted the perimeter, quenching any leftover flames.
Next, Mason said he plans on plowing and harrowing the land, but leaving it fallow.
CRP land and prescribed burning remain very vital to the future of agriculture. Without these conservative practices, native wildlife would be without habitat, soil would become eroded beyond use and the chance of wildfires would increase.
For more information on CPR, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/.