Effects of Fire in the Northern Great Plains

Fire has been used inconsistently to manage native and tame grasslands in the Northern Great Plains (NGP) of the north-central U.S. and south-central Canada, particularly the grasslands found in prairies, plains, agricultural land retirement programs, and moist soil sites.
This has happened for three primary reasons: (1) the reduction of American Indian use of fire after 1875, (2) fire suppression and land use changes that put increasingly more acres under annual tillage since about the same time, and (3) a growing resistance to the use of fire since about 1940, largely due to media overemphasis of its harmful effects (e.g., "Bambi" and "Smokey the Bear").

Little can be done to change the first two factors but there is ample opportunity to change human attitudes about fire.

Attitudes change when knowledge (or lack thereof) changes. We believe that people have been reluctant to include fire in resource management programs in the NGP because of a lack of adequate information about the effects of fire on the soils, plants, and animals in the region.

This report provides information concerning fire effects on the grassland biome of the NGP, with special emphasis on the use of fire for wildlife management. In most instances, the authors describe the published findings of others without interpretation. Readers can fit the information into their specific circumstances.

English and scientific names are from Flora of the Great Plains by the Great Plains Flora Association and from the Checklist of vertebrates of the United States, the U.S. territories, and Canada by R.C. Banks, R.W. McDiarmid, and A.L. Gardner.

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