Prescription: Fire

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

nature enthusiasts are impressed with the flowering and diversity of plants and animals in a prairie that is managed properly with fire.

  • Control woody plants and exotic grasses in idled fields. Mostly a wildlife management technique, fire can be quite effective in reducing cedar, locust, hedge and elm invading idled land. It also retards exotic grasses and encourages the annual weeds that provide food for wildlife.
  • Restore vigor and plant diversity to glades and savannahs. Fire can rejuvenate cedar-invaded glades and savannahs that have lost their grassy understory. Extreme caution is required to see that the glade or savannah burn doesn't become a wildfire in the woods.
  • * Fire may help in woodland and forest management. We are currently studying the effectiveness of fire in controlling maple trees within oak forests. It may be useful to not only control competing woody plants, but to also stimulate the growth of oaks, especially white oaks.
  • These potentials are still under study and will require the judicial use of fire, but fire may be more economical and environmentally sensitive than cutting trees or using herbicides. From a naturalist perspective, periodic prescribed fire, done carefully, may increase the biological diversity within a woodland. This option is also under study and may involve a trade-off between biological diversity and commercial value of the timber within the woodland.

    What Is a Prescribed Fire?

    The Conservation Department fights wildfires and conducts prescribed fires. So do the Forest Service, national parks, state parks and Corps of Engineers. All of these agencies plan to burn over 50,000 acres each year, if the weather and conditions are suitable.

    The important distinction with a prescribed fire is that we select it as our best management tool, plan how to use it, have control lines, have sufficient personnel and equipment available to conduct it safely and then evaluate it after the burn to see that it accomplished what we wanted.

    We use state-of-the-art weather information, train and equip our personnel for safety and have plans ready in case something unexpected happens and the fire gets out of our planned area. We typically burn under less severe conditions than when we have wildfire problems. The intensity of our prescribed burns are noticeably less than the more destructive wildfires.

    If You Use Prescribed Fire, Do It Right

    Private landowners have been using fire for decades. Ranchers in northern and southwest Missouri have been working with the Conservation Department and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

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