Management of Grasslands Using Prescribed Fire
SARE Group Producer Grant # FNC01-355:
Management of grasslands using prescribed fire
Progress Report 2002
As use of prescribed fire gains acceptance as a management tool among landowners, education of proper planning, preparation, and techniques becomes more critical. During 2002, SARE grant and matching funds were used to put on workshops, conduct demonstration burns and purchase supplies to build mobile water supply units (MWSU).
The prescribed burn workshops were held in Buffalo, Custer, and Lincoln/Dawson counties during mid-March and were attended by approximately sixty landowners and volunteer firemen. The morning session, led by The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) National Fire Training Coordinator from Tallahassee, Florida, covered the basics of safety, planning, and conducting prescribed burns. Participants were able to see different types of equipment and personal protective equipment used for conducting burns. During the afternoon, Dr. Jerry Volesky, forage specialist form the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, West Central Research and Extension Center, discussed forage and livestock responses to fire. In addition, a pre-burn planning exercise was conducted using the proposed demonstration burn sites.
Three demonstration burns were conducted in Lincoln County. After deferring grazing the previous year, a Prescribed Burn Task Force (PBTF) member spent several weeks with each landowner planning the burns and preparing fire breaks. In addition to PBTF members, fifteen to twenty landowners and/or volunteer firemen participated in each demonstration burn. On March 20, 2002, approximately 230 acres of Gordon Gosnell’s eastern redcedar infested loess canyons were burned. In the same landscape, approximately 450 acres at the Todd Deatrich Ranch were burned on April 12, 2002.
Custer County had one demonstration burn held in conjunction with the burn workshop and Tom and Lisa McMillan had another prescribed burn on their property in Blaine County. One hundred thiry-three acres of rangeland owned by Ron and Darla MCleary was the demonstration burn site targeted for eastern redcedar control on April 5, 2002. Twenty-nine neighbors, interested land owners, agency people and PBTF members also participated in this burn which consisted of burning slopes from 11% - 30%. Ron had previously completed some mechanical brush control and with the use of prescribed burning he was very pleased with the control this combination obtained. The McMillan’s burned approximated 300 acres of rolling Valentine Fine Sand soils also for eastern redcedar control on April 12, 2002. Nineteen neighbors, friends and interested landowners assisted in burning these acres in the corner of Blaine, Loop and Custer counties. PBTF members in these counties also spent several weeks planning and preparing for demonstrations, to ensure safe and effective burns.
Mobile Water Supply Units
As discussed in the grant proposal, three 225-gallon mobile water supply units will be built prior to the end of this grant. They will be used by PBTF to safely conduct demonstration burns and expose landowners to an effective piece of equipment. With training on proper use and care of the units, the MWSUs will be available for landowners to rent.
The first MWSU was built by TNC’s Niobrara Valley Preserve by Johnstown, Nebraska and is currently being stored at TNC’s Western Projects Office in North Platte, Nebraska. Most of the supplies for the second and third units have been purchased and will be assembled over the winter. All three units should be available for 2003 demonstration burns (if demonstration burns are possible given the drought conditions throughout most of the area). Supplies have come from a variety of retailers including: Wildfire Pacific/Tyco, Kelly Supply Company, Troyer Enterprises, and North Platte Lumber and Supply Company.