Fire affects the composition, structure, and pattern of vegetation on the landscape. In most terrestrial North American ecosystems, fire disturbance is necessary to maintain ecological processes. Therefore, a fire-centered approach to conservation can be used to systematically meet compatible habitat management and use goals. As wildlife managers, our decision-making process and actions purposefully influence the interactions between people, wildlife, and their habitats to achieve beneficial results. With prescribed burning, we apply fire to a predetermined area within a prescribed set of conditions, dates, and with appropriate safety precautions to achieve specific purposes (e.g. controlling eastern redcedar or rejuvenating grass production). The ecosystem concept is critical to wildlife management because it recognizes complex interactions between humans and the living and non-living environment over multiples scales in space and time.
What happens when fire is eliminated from a grassland ecosystem? Throughout the Great Plains, eastern redcedar invasion is a direct cause of declines in livestock forage, water availability, and grassland wildlife. An estimated 38,000 acres of Nebraska rangeland and forest are lost to eastern redcedar encroachment each year. By returning fire to the landscape we can satisfy environmental, social, and economic objectives towards maintaining healthy, functioning grasslands.
Prescribed Burning in Nebraska
Generally, individual landowners interested in prescribed fire lack sufficient training or resources to achieve their goals independently. For this reason, Pheasants Forever, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and other conservation partners led an effort to educate, empower, and align land stewards who share a common goal, to increase the health of the land as Mother Nature intended, with fire. Educational workshops, prescribed burn associations, and mobile prescribed burn units have successfully increased the safe and effective use of prescribed fire in Nebraska and beyond.
Prescribed Burn Associations, like any other volunteer group, depend on members who are willing to lend their time and resources to accomplish mutually beneficial goals for everyone involved. There are eleven active Prescribed Burn Associations in Nebraska supported by Pheasants Forever.
Pheasants Forever offers educational workshops to increase prescribed fire knowledge and skills among Nebraskans. Basic workshops provide a solid foundation on the fundamentals of planning and conducting a prescribed fire. These workshops are great for those with little to no experience and while serving as a refresher to more experienced fire practitioners. Advanced workshops take an in-depth look at specific aspects of planning or implementing a prescribed fire. Since 2008, a total of 92 workshops, with 2,053 attendees, have occurred throughout the state.
There is a lot of planning and coordination involved in prescribed burning. Much of it happens months before a match is lit. Visit the burn planning section to learn more about some of the key considerations to get started. Often, there is a limited window of opportunity to burn. Plan ahead to ensure a safe and effective prescribed fire.