Nebraska: Kansas’ annual smoke management review not enough

Burning prairie land in the Flint Hills on April 12, 2017. (Photo: KSN/John Asebes)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – A Nebraska mayor is pushing for changes in Kansas’ oversight of prairie and ranchland burning after smoke from the Flint Hills spurred health warnings in Nebraska’s capital city.

Lincoln, Nebraska, Mayor Chris Beutler sent a letter Friday to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment pressing for action.

KDHE environmental division director John Mitchell says Kansas’ prairie-burning protocol will get an annual review this spring. Mitchell was responding to the Nebraska mayor’s complaints about the smoke.

Kansas farmers and ranchers burn land to help control undergrowth that can fuel wildfires. Burning also helps grow nutritious grass for grazing cattle.

But farmers and officials say the burn season was cut short this year by heavy rain, so simultaneous burns by many farmers created more concentrated smoke.