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.
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.
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 provides a cost-share 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. Cost-share is available at $15 per acre with a maximum of $30,000 per landowner. One application per landowner per year is allowed. Applications must be received by January 31st of each year for approval in February.