Nebraska prescribed burn conference: Innovations in fire
for Tri-State Livestock News
The 4th annual Nebraska Prescribed Fire Council’s Conference (NPFC) was held recently at the Holiday Inn in Kearney, Nebraska. This year’s theme “Innovations in Fire.”
Media outlets have told of several destructive fires lately that caused loss of lives as well as homes, businesses and infrastructures. Fires, when managed properly, though, can be a friend to landowners says the organizers of this year’s NPFC conference.
Scott Stout, of Curtis, is in his second year as president of the NPFC and is a member of the Loess Canyon Rangeland Alliance (LCRA), which has 75 active members, the majority of them landowners.
“Our local LCRA, as well as the statewide NPFC consists of landowners helping landowners with prescribed burns with its major focus eradicating the red cedar. The invasive red cedar deletes soil moisture and grass cover, thus reducing land productivity.”
The Nebraska Prescribed Fire Council (NPFC) was formed by landowners for the purpose of promoting the common good and general welfare of the people in Nebraska by educating, training and practicing safe prescribed burn techniques that reduce or eliminate invasive species and fuel load build-up in open spaces, providing fire protection, and/or prevention from wild or unexpected fires in and near these burned open places. The NPFC will also provide landowners and prescribed burn associations access to organizational technical assistance and advocacy. (http://www.nefirecouncil.org)
John Maddux, owner of Maddux Cattle Co., Wauneta, southwest Nebraska spoke to the group. He told how prescribed burns have been used for close to ten years as a valuable land management tool on their ranch. Red Cedar is his primary focus.
Another presentation described the ‘innovative’ use of prescribed fire in an urban setting in the “Trials and Successes of Prescribed Fire in a Wildland Urban Interface” presented by Jeanine Lackey with support of her fellow co-workers, Michelle Foss, and Matt Miller, both restoration biologists. All work at the Fontenelle Forest.
“The Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue consists of 2,000 acres of woodland and grassland. It has been without fire for over 100 years. Native Americans set fire to prairies, as a way of driving wildlife but also to keep the woody vegetation at bay. Europeans, coming to America saw fire as a bad thing; thus our oak woodland has been declining. One of the aspects we use to reclaim and restore has been prescribed burning. Our staff is highly trained, and includes communication with the city fire department and administration. Our burns can last one or two days, due to the burning timber. Our burn permits have been extended over a 24 to 48 hour period due to the shift change of the fire department every eight hours, which has eased the confusion of all, especially the local residents,” Lackey said. “Southeast Nebraska at Indian Cave park, and at Ponca Park in northwest Nebraska uses prescribed burns, as well, but we are the only forest within an urban setting that does this.”
Shelly Kelly, with the Sandhills Task Force delved into another innovation just beginning being used in prescribed burns — that of drones.
“Drone use is being researched to start the internal fires that are needed. Presently controlled burns consist of starting an external fire that begins to form a circle, someone prior to the circle closing, must enter the center and begin the internal fire, getting out before the external fire circle closes. Needless to say, that is an extreme safety issue that could be resolved if drones could be equipped to fly in and begin the internal fire.”
To do prescribed burns takes training on the part of those performing it. Landowners contact their NRCS (Natural Resource, Conservation Service), or their extension office to set up a burn. Many organizations assist in the burns as well depending on the location.
Support of the conference is provided by not only the Sandhills Task Force but Nebraska Game and Parks, Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy, Horizon Ag Inc./Hogz Brew BBQ, Central Platte Rangeland Alliance, Loess Canyon Rangeland Alliance, University of Nebraska, Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, Firestorm Wildland Fire Suppressions, Prescription Pyro, LLC., USFWS (US Fish & Wildlife Services) – Nebraska Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Western Nebraska Bank, Great Plains Fire Science Exchange, NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation) and Chloeta Fire of Okalahoma City.
In 2017, workshops will be held around Nebraska to provide guidance and instruction for completing safe and effective prescribed fires. The workshops are for landowners, resource professionals, volunteer fire departments and others interested in burning. No prior burn experience is necessary to participate. Basic workshops are daylong from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following dates and locations:
• Jan. 18 — Neleigh — UNL Extension Office, 501 Main St., Suite 98
• Jan. 19 — Wayne — Wayne State College Student Center, 14th Street
• Jan. 24 — Scottsbluff — North Platte NRD, 100547 Airport Road
• Jan. 26 — Lincoln — Lancaster County UNL Ext., 444 Cherry Creek Road
• Feb. 1 — Gibbon — Rowe Sanctuary, 44450 Elm Island Road
• Feb. 17 — Burwell — Scared Heart Parish Center, 747 I St.
Go to any of the above or contact your extension office as others will be planned throughout the year. Advanced topic workshops are also planned. A $10 registration fee for each workshop covers meal and training materials. To register for any of the workshops or for more information, call (308) 850-8395 or go to http://www.NebraskaPF.com.
As leaving the land better for their children has been a primary goal of Nebraska landowners for generations, using ‘friendly fires’ is one of those land management tools that assure the success of that goal. F