Prescribed Fire

Stan Bradbury photo

Fire encourages healthy habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken.

Historically, fire and grazing were natural and regularly occurring parts of the Great Plains prairie ecosystem. Together they helped maintain healthy, vigorous prairie vegetation. Today, while grazing still occurs across the lesser prairie-chicken’s range, fire has largely been eliminated from the landscape.

0332BoRader

In southwest Kansas, prescribed fire burns redcedar trees that have invaded prairie grasslands. Bo Rader photo.

Fire encourages native grasses and forbs (as well as native, fire-adapted prairie shrubs like shinnery oak) to send up abundant new shoots, which lesser prairie-chickens and other prairie wildlife rely on for food and shelter. It also deters invasive woody plants, like eastern redcedar, which can take root in prairie landscapes in the absence of fire.

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative offers technical support for landowners interested in using this management tool to improve grassland habitat on their enrolled lands. Carefully developed prescribed burn plans identify target weather conditions and safety considerations, as well as specific goals and targets for the identified burn area.

Watch this remarkable video by rancher Brian Alexander, who shot this video via drone of a spring 2015 prescribed fire in the Red Hills, Barber County, Kansas: