Prescribed Fire

Prescribed Fire Program

Prescribed fire is a very valuable practice for Nebraska’s rangelands and prairies. Farmers in Central Platte NRD are having great success using fire to improve their pastures. It does entail some risk, which is why safety training and proper equipment are necessary. The NRD has had an important role in helping departments and landowners obtain safety training.

Rangeland areas that have not had fire occurrence are often sites of problems involving invasive species. The invasive species, such as Eastern Red Cedar, can take away natural grassland acres that are necessary for grazing as well as for wildlife. Rangelands that are always grazed in the fall or winter with no spring treatment may also 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 a prescribed fire is used along with appropriate grazing practices, the results are increased economic output and wildlife benefit. Fields that are moderately grazed and treated with periodic burns are more drought-tolerant, more diverse in plant and wildlife species, more productive in late summer, at less risk for devastating summer wildfire, and at less risk for runoff and erosion.


  • 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 plant quality
  • Remove slash and debris
  • Enhance seed and seedling production
  • Facilitate distribution of grazing and browsing animals
  • Restore and maintain ecological sites

  • Must be planned by a person(s) qualified to carry out such work.
  • Must be reviewed and approved by CPNRD’s Burn Coordinator before the prescribed burn can be accomplished.
  • Landowner(s) required to obtain a valid open burning permit as per Nebraska Statute 81-520.01.
  • Must be carried out by a qualified team or private company approved by the NRD Burn Coordinator.
  • Proof of adequate insurance & landowner liability agreement will be required before any action may be conducted under this program.
  • CPNRD accepts no liability for any prescribed burn activity associated with the application, application approval, prescribed burn approval, or the prescribed burn itself.

There are three steps involved in the successful use of prescribed fire:


An open burning permit and prescribed fire plan must be completed prior to each burn as mandated by state law. The NRD fire coordinator will be available to assure the fire plan meets all state law requirements.


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. Reduced and deferred grazing may be necessary to produce best burning conditions.


The burn must be implemented by the NRD crew or a qualified and insured prescribed fire contractor.


The cost of a prescribed burn by the CPNRD fire crew is $10 per acre for the first 40 acres and $5/acre over 40 acres. Minimum charge is $300 per burn.


The CPNRD cost-share program helps landowners treat their rangelands with the implementation of burns. The crew conducts and assists landowners and other agencies with prescribed burns.  Since the inception of the program, the NRD fire crew has conducted over 200 burns and over 18,000 acres.

Download Application

Additional Financial Assistance 

Healthy rangelands and abundant wildlife habitat are essential for cattle and wildlife in our state.  Central Platte NRD offers a couple unique conservation programs to area producers to maintain range and habitat.  Because fire is  the most economical tool for getting rid of unwanted trees, these programs are aimed at encouraging the safe use of prescribed fire.  Programs include:

Grazing Deferment Program
Reimburses landowners for part of the cost of laying land idle to prepare for a successful burn.

Burn Preparation Cost-Share
Reimburses landowners for part of the cost of tree work to prepare pastures for a burn.

Grassland Improvement Program
Provides payments to improve the health and diversity of grasslands through deferred grazing and prescribed burning. Funding partners: Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Nebraska Game & Parks, The Environmental Trust, NRCS & Partners for Fish & Wildlife.
Contact: Trent Findley, Pheasants Forever Wildlife Biologist
(308) 392-3528

For more information contact David Carr or Kelly Cole, Central Platte NRD at (308) 385 6282 or for more information email:

Grazing Deferment Applications Due January 31st

Applications are being accepted for the Central Platte Natural Resources District’s Grazing Deferment Cost-Share Program. Grazing deferment is essential when planning for a prescribed burn. Allowing the site to rest provides the adequate fuel load that is necessary for a successful burn. Most burns rely on fine fuel made up of warm season grasses for combustion to create the desired impacts; which is why it’s important to allow ‘dead grasses’ to remain in the field to serve as the fine fuel for your prescribed fire.

Central Platte NRD's cost-share payment is $30/acre with a maximum of $30,000 per landowner per year. The Grazing Deferment Program was implemented to provide an incentive for landowners to defer grazing in a pasture for one growing season so that a prescribed burn can be successfully applied in the following year to help in cedar reduction.

Priority is given to lands that will be concurrently enrolled in EQIP or WHIP programs through the NRCS or within a CPNRD focus project area for cedar reduction. A field visit and documentation that the land was deferred from grazing from March 1st through the end of the calendar year in the year prior to burn must be provided before the cost-share payment is made. To learn more about deferred grazing or to sign up for cost-share, call the Central Platte NRD at (308) 385-6282 or email Kelly Cole

Grazing Deferment Application