Prescribed Burning Guidelines in the Northern Great Plains

The use of fire to manage grasslands for wildlife is a relatively new management option for resource managers in the Northern Great Plains (NGP). Nearly all of the burning during the past 20-25 years has been conducted without the aid of specific guidelines for the region. This state-of-the-art set of recommendations was compiled because of this void.
Records of 902 grassland fires (primarily on U.S. Fish and Wildlife lands), personal experiences, and synopses of other published fire research were used in developing the guidelines in this manual.
Fifty-two percent of the 902 fires were in native prairie grasslands with lesser amounts in tame and native grass plantings, wetlands, and woodlands.
Prescription grassland fires averaged 31 ha (77 acres) per burn. The personnel needed to safely conduct a grassland fire depended on the size of the burn, the kind of firebreaks, available equipment, and weather conditions. Costs and hours of effort to conduct fires were inversely related to burn area size. Cost ratios are extremely high for fires of less than 4 ha (10 acres). They are essentially the same for burns of 16 to 113 ha (40 to 280 acres).
The two primary reasons for burning grasslands are wildlife habitat improvement and native prairie restoration. Fire use steadily increased between 1965 and 1984, but the greatest increase occurred following workshop instruction in 1978.
These guidelines present a set of reasons, criteria, techniques, and examples of simple prescriptions which aid in the planning and execution of a safe and effective prescribed burning program for wildlife enhancement in grassland areas of the NGP.

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