Smoke alert: Prescribed burns at Rookery Bay

Crews plan to set prescribed burns at several spots in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in coming days, resource managers say.

Burns are starting today along Shell Island Road, off Collier Boulevard south of U.S. 41 East. Burns also are planned near Hall Bay and on Keewayind Island along the intracoastal waterway between Naples and Marco Island.

People who live nearby will see and could smell smoke from the fires, and fire-setting operations could temporarily inconvenience boaters and motorists along Shell Island Road, managers said.

Setting fires helps reduce woody underbrush that can fuel catastrophic wildfires and also opens up area for wildlife to forage and travel through, increases ecosystem diversity and helps control nonnative species.

Rookery Bay reserve, a kind of outdoor classroom for students and laboratory for scientists, covers 110,000 acres of Collier County's southern coast, managed jointly by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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