2020 Nebraska Prescribed Fire Workshop
for Tri-State Livestock News
Historically, when a rancher would see dark smoke rising and the orange red glow of fire on the horizon it would often mean wildfire and the fear associated with them. However, according to Brian Teeter, Prescribed Fire Coordinating Wildlife Biologist for Nebraska Pheasants Forever Inc. and Quail Forever, fire has helped shape the land in the northern great plains and is largely responsible for why there are some of the best grasslands in the country here.
He goes on to explain that prescribed fire can be an integral tool in maintaining grasslands, woodlands and wetlands including use in range management, wildlife management and fuel reduction for wildfires. Fire has many benefits including adding fertilizer to pastures, removing thatch to allow lush green grass growth and perhaps the most important helping combat woody plant encroachment in the form of eastern red cedar trees.
“These trees are rapidly expanding across our rangelands to the detriment of our stocking rates, grassland wildlife and wildfire suppression,” states Teeter. “You may not have cedars on your ranch yet, but if you don’t start burning now, you soon may find yourself in a battle to get rid of them.”
When it comes to managing eastern red cedars prevention is the key and fire is the most cost effective way for that prevention. For ranchers already dealing with an invasion of eastern red cedar, fire can still be used as a management tool however cost and degree of difficulty increases as the size of the invasion increases.
Nebraska Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever and its partners (Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Conservation, Nebraska Environmental Trust) to help address this problem started conducting prescribed burn workshops beginning in 2008 after seeing a need and interest in the application of fire to manage grasslands, woodlands and wetlands.
Through a series of partnerships, they set up a three point strategy to help landowners and land managers get fire on the ground that was done safe manner and accomplished management objectives.
Sept One of their three point strategy was to provide people with classroom training that would give them a solid foundation of the prescribed fire; with topics that include fire ecology, fire behavior, weather equipment, techniques, safetly, regulations and more. Step Two was to acquire some of the specialized equipment that makes conduction fire safer. “This morphed into what we call ‘Mobile Prescribed Burn Units (MPBU)’ that are custom made trailers that hold all of the basic equipment needed to conduct a safe burn,” said Teeter.
The last step in the strategy was the formation of the prescribed burn associations that would bring together landowners wishing to burn, provide access to one of the MPBU and offer specialized on the ground fire training where staff and partner staff can help teach landowners on how to properly conduct safe and effective burns.
“These three pillars have helped us grow to ten prescribed burn associations in Nebraska with 15 burn units across the state, 80,000 acres burned, and over 3,500 people attending workshops,” explains Teeter. “As we head into the next ten years, we hope to continue to add more associations, burn more acres and increase awareness about the need for good fire on our landscape through education and outreach efforts.”
The Nebraska Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever along with their partners conduct two different types of prescribed fire workshops, the first being the basic workshop, where presenters cover the basics of planning and implementing a prescribed burn. These workshops are six to seven hours and will give participants a solid foundation on prescribed burns.
The second type of workshops are the advanced workshops that build upon what participants learned in the basic workshops and dives deeper into fire related topics, adding knowledge to that foundation. Topics have included live burn demonstrations, burn plan training, using fire in cattle operations and fire weather.
“For any ranchers considering integrating prescribed burns into their operations I would say to seek out information and knowledge from area wildlife biologists or range management specialist experienced in fire who will be able to get you the resources that you need or direct you to them,” explains Teeter. “Prescribed fire is a journey, the more you immerse yourself in learning and applying fire, the more you will become comfortable with it and comfortable teaching others. Attending one of our workshops will help answer many questions you have about prescribed fire. There will also be experts there to assist in helping to begin fire programs on your ranch.”
For more information of the prescribed fire workshops visit NebraskaPF.com or call Brian Teeter at 402-219-2572. No previous experience is needed for any of the workshops.