Prescribed Fire Program
for Private Landowners
Learn how to burn properly! Attend a local workshop from December through February- Dates/Locations
The NRD implemented the Prescribed Fire Program in 2004 and developed a cost share program to help landowners treat their rangelands with the implementation of burns. Since the inception of the program, the NRD Fire Crew has conducted and participated in 144 burns totaling 15,772 acres. The average burn size is 109.5 acres. The NRD works in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Prescribed Burn Task Force. In addition, the NRD participates in the Nebraska Fire Safety Council- a group whose purpose is to promote the safe and legal use of prescribed fire as an effective natural resource management tool.
Prescribed fire can be a valuable tool in the maintenance and improvement of native grasslands. Rangeland areas devoid of fire occurrence are often sites of problems involving invasive species. These invasive species such as Eastern Red Cedar can take away natural grassland acres that is necessary for grazing as well as for wildlife. In addition, rangelands that are always grazed in the fall or winter with no spring treatment may become areas dominated by native and non-native cool season grasses and invasive weeds. These areas offer a reduced food value to livestock and are of reduced value to native wildlife. When prescribed fire is used along with appropriate grazing practices, the result is increased economic output and wildlife benefit.
Cost: The cost of a prescribed burn by the Central Platte NRD fire crew is:
- $10 per acre for the first 40 acres
- $5 per acre for anything over 40 acres
A minimum charge of $300 per burn.
GOALS OF PRESCRIBED FIRE
·to control undesirable vegetation ·prepare sites for harvesting, planting or seeding ·control plant disease ·reduce wildfire hazards ·improve wildlife habitat ·improve plant production quantity and/or quality ·remove slash and debris
·enhance seed and seedling production ·facilitate distribution of grazing and browsing animals ·restore and maintain ecological sites
The prescribed burn must be planned by a person(s) qualified to carry out such work.
The prescribed burn plan must be reviewed and approved by the NRD’s Burn Coordinator before the prescribed burn can be accomplished.
Landowner(s) will be required to obtain a valid open burning permit as per Nebraska Statute 81-520.01.
The prescribed burn must be carried out by a qualified team or private company approved by the NRD Burn Coordinator.
Proof of adequate insurance and landowner liability agreement will be required before any
CPNRD accepts no liability for any prescribed burn activity associated with the application, application approval, prescribed burn approval, or the prescribed burn itself.
Three steps are involved in the successful use of prescribed fire:
- Planning- An open burning permit and prescribed fire plan must be completed prior to each burn as mandated by state law. The NRD prescribed fire coordinator will be available to assure the prescribed fire plan meets all state law requirements.
- Preparation- The burn unit boundaries and internal features need to be prepared prior to the burn to help ensure safety. The NRD prescribed fire coordinator will assist in making recommendations for this type of preparation. Preparation can include mowing or disking the lines or anchor points, and brush or tree removal/piling.
Implementation- The burn must be implemented by a qualified, insured, prescribed fire contractor.
Central Platte NRD's 1st Prescribed BurnIn 2005, the NRD conducted its first prescribed burn near Chapman on land owned by Don and Barbara Reeves. The burn was conducted on five acres of land just across the road from their home. The Reeves' goal to kill weed seeds and rejuvenate the natural grasses that had been planted were reached. These included: buffalograss, big bluestem, sideoats gramma, switchgrass, little blue stem and blue gramma. Don is growing grasses in his greenhouse that he hopes to transplant later this spring. In the past, the acreage had been used for grazing by his neighbors cattle. Don is also hoping the burn will help wildflowers that he’s planted such as coneflowers, Mexican redhat, blanketflowers, blue easters, purple prairie clover, Illinois bungleflower, and partridge pea.
2005 Reeves Prescribed Burn
2006 Reeves Spring Results
Prescribed Burning: Risks & Benefits from a Burn Boss’s Point of View
by David Carr
There has recently been a lot of scrutiny over prescribed burning and so I wanted to share information from my perspective. My name is David Carr and I have been doing prescribed burns for nine years. For 19 years before that I was a kid who grew up in the Sandhills and worked for 5 summers on a couple ranches. I know both sides of this issue. I have participated in about 200 burns without incident, burning over 16,000 acres by my estimate. I have become certified in the NWCG system as a Prescribed Fire Burn Boss Type 2, Engine Boss, Incident Commander Type 4, Ignitions Specialist, and Firefighter Type 1.This is to give you an idea of where I am coming from.
I would like to start by saying that I am proud of my fellow Nebraskans for their understanding and cooperation so far in my career. I know that prescribed burning is somewhat foreign here in Nebraska and seems pretty dangerous. I am surprised time and time again at people’s willingness to help us in little ways even though they are somewhat scared of what we are doing.
I feel that when it comes to risk, the folks need to be aware that risk levels are low when the fires are being done like a true “prescribed burn”. A prescribed burn means having several things:
- A trained crew of at least 6 folks.
- At least 2 fire trucks or custom sprayers.
- A proper burn plan.
- A burn unit that has prepared, adequate boundaries.
- Burn Boss that is in 1st person contact with the National Weather Service.
Trained burn bosses and trained crews who are dedicated to their jobs have been shown to be safe enough to pull off hundreds of burns in a row without problems. In reference to my own experience here in Nebraska, in all the burns I have done we have not had an escape. I would like to add that all tools have a certain amount of danger. This one is no different. We have voltage lines, railroad crossings that kill, auto and plane crashes etc. Nothing is totally safe.
Where I think the public needs to be more concerned are on the various “controlled burns” that are being done. These are not prescribed burns, meaning quite a few of the details have not been specifically planned. This lack of planning is the problem. Controlled Burns typically are: Pile Burns, 1 or 2 man burns, Unattended or un-extinguished burns.
Are prescribed burns necessary? In some areas, no, and in some areas, yes. There are some areas where accumulations of trees cause fire concern. Prescribed burning removes these fuels more economically than any other method. Without occasional fires, some areas that have a tallgrass community on them are changed so drastically that the native grasses disappear. The native wildlife goes with them. We need to maintain these areas and fire is vital in that effort. I certainly don’t remember the dust bowl, but I read where they had to put any wooden handled tools inside because the insects were out of plants and would eat wooden handles. It’s crucial to keep nature in balance if possible from my point of view.
You may hear or read that smoke causes a health hazard, and folks that is a wash. All that particulate matter is going to be airborne someday whether or not it’s burned intentionally, because sooner or later a wildfire will catch the area before the wood is decomposed. Also, this particulate matter is less than what it would have been historically. Native Americans burned a lot more than we do these days.
In summation, I would say that implementing these fires is doable and increasing the scale is doable and should not cause a major public concern where best practices and dedicated burn bosses are involved. I think we need to get some good boundaries put in on the Platte River and do some more burning there to prevent nasty wind-whipped wildfires.We need more understanding of fire’s benefits and risks so that more fires are implemented where necessary and so that unsafe projects are not permitted in the first place.
CPNRD's Fire Crew: Milt Moravek, Matt Bohnenkamp, Marcia Lee,
Tom Backer, Dan Clement, Dave Carr (burn boss), Mark Czaplewski