South Dakota prescribed fire workshops begin in March

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Fire is an age-old grassland management tool that landowners and managers of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land can use to enhance their grasslands. To provide them with research-based information on the appropriate use of fire SDSU Extension has developed workshops on fire’s role in managing South Dakota’s grasslands.

“South Dakota’s land and the resources it harbors are much greater than the sum of its parts, and collectively the challenges of fire management in our state’s habitats are highly variable,” said Pete Bauman, SDSU Extension Range Field Specialist. “As a result, a historic and natural tool like fire can be lauded as a hero and a villain.”

Fire as a Hero

Depending on where in South Dakota your land is located, Bauman explained that fire can benefit your land.

“It has the potential to release lower Missouri River ranches from the clutch of encroaching cedar and juniper trees; invigorate grass growth in eastern South Dakota pastures and reduce fuel loads in the Black Hills,” he said. “Fire has the ability to rejuvenate a neglected pasture in the Summit Hills to a lush carpet of grasses and flowering plants.”

As much as Bauman heralds fire as a hero, he quickly noted that fire can also be viewed as a villain.

“Unplanned wildfires or well intentioned prescribed fires gone awry can lead to bewilderment, confusion, and loss resulting in unsatisfactory answers that often create bitterness and disdain for such a powerful tool,” he said.

He said that fire, like any tool with the potential to impact the land in either a positive or negative way, deserved to be treated with respect.

“SDSU Extension outreach efforts reflect this philosophy,” he said. “As our capacity grows, we will continue to work with partners and landowners to provide fire training and education in workshops and classrooms.”

Fire Workshops Begin in March

SDSU Extension along with South Dakota Natural Resource Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy and other partners involved in the Prairie Coteau Habitat Partnership will host a series of Landowner and Agency CRP/Grassland Fire Planning workshops this month.

2014 Workshop schedule:

• March 25 in Winner at the SDSU Extension Regional Center (325 S. Monroe St.)

• March 26 in Rapid City at the SDSU West River Ag Center (1905 Plaza Blvd)

• March 27 in Lemmon at the Lemmon Fire Department (Main Ave and 4th St. East)

All classes begin at 8:30 a.m. with on-site registration and will adjourn at 5 p.m. with a one hour lunch break at noon. Lunch will not be provided at the workshops.

Workshops will consist of one-day classroom instruction led by trained prescribed fire professionals within the NRCS, SDSU Extension, Pheasants Forever, and other organizations. The workshops will focus on instructing landowners, NRCS staff, and agency personnel on the methods of planning for and conducting prescribed fires on CRP and grasslands in general. Topics will include firebreak development, grassland ecology, fire planning, resources and tools, weather, safety, and communications.

The workshops are free and walk-in registration will be held on site at 8:30 a.m. each morning. However, participants are encouraged to pre-register if they know they are planning to attend. For more information or to pre-register, please call the SDSU Extension Regional Center in Watertown at 605-882-5140.

Over the next several months Bauman will continue to upload articles to that discuss fire and its role on South Dakota’s landscape.

“The articles will look at fire, not only as a historic force that shaped our landscapes, but as a modern tool that can be applied judiciously and safely for the benefit of people and resources,” he said. “Practical consideration of fire starts with education. It is in that spirit we are announcing the latest effort related to fire planning and education.”

If you have a fire topic that you would like to see covered in this series or would like more information on fire use for a specific target, please contact Pete Bauman, at the SDSU Extension Regional Center in Watertown, or call 605-882-5140.