Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | October 1, 2020
From Missouri Conservationist: October 2020

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Habitat Management

Prescribed Fire

“Depending on their objectives, our conservation area managers often use prescribed fire to improve habitat, control forest pests, or enrich natural communities,” said MDC Fire Program Supervisor Ben Webster. “Private landowners can do this, too.”

In partnership with the Missouri Prescribed Fire Council (MPFC), Webster teaches the best practices of planning and conducting a prescribed fire. The council comprises private landowners and private contractors as well as several agencies and nonprofits. These include MDC, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, Quail Forever, Pheasants Forever, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Our practices are based on years of conducting prescribed fires in different conditions and for different outcomes,” Webster said. “Our planning tools also include weather forecasts and fire behavior and smoke modeling programs, which can increase a manager’s confidence in a plan,” Webster said.

“If you can predict how a fire is likely to behave and how much heat and smoke it will produce, it can help you decide how to adjust your plan or even cancel it for that day. A big part of a successful habitat burn is whether the neighbors are comfortable with it,” he added.

“A lot of people think all fire is bad,” Webster said. “But if done right, prescribed fire can be one of the best tools for improving habitat for wildlife and even for timber management goals.”

For a schedule of upcoming private landowner burn workshops, contact your local MDC private land conservationist. In addition, there are five burn associations around the state that may offer potential assistance to interested landowners. To get in touch with the burn association nearest you, visit

Burn Plan Best Practices at a Glance

  • Know your habitat objectives
  • Develop a plan
  • Establish containment lines
  • Check the weather
  • Post signs and notify stakeholders
  • Brief the crew
  • Conduct the burn
  • Mop up
  • Declare the burn complete
  • Review and evaluate

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler