Photos: Burning at Dean Creek elk viewing area

DEAN CREEK, Ore. -- A Bureau of Land Management project created a lot of smoke off of Highway 38 East near Reedsport on Tuesday.

BLM fire crews were at the popular Dean Creek elk viewing area conducting a controlled burn, which in the end helps rebuild a more nutritious elk habitat.

Megan Harper of BLM public affairs, says sometimes people think controlled burns are wildfires. "When people see a big plume of smoke they wonder, "is this on purpose or was it an accident," and this was definitely on purpose."

The burned land forces the wild elk to re-locate for a short time. "The elk have gotten pretty used to this, they go to the other end of the elk viewing area and hang out, but it won't be more than a week and the fresh new grass will be growing and they'll be back in the areas that have burned."

Fire crews will burn 100 acres over two days. "We have to burn off all of the old dead grass and let new lush grass grow so they will have plenty to eat while they're here."

Some wonder why the grass is not baled and sent to farmers instead of burning it.

Harper says it doesn't do farmers any good. "We found that the grass has a really low nutritional value, especially when it's dead like this, so most farmers and ranchers in the area don't want it."

The smoke and elk do cause distractions for drivers, so BLM officials want to make sure you drive slowly and are alert of road crews when passing through.