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  5. July 2018

Find Out Why and How to Burn at Great Plains Fire Summit

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Our native ecosystem in the Southern Great Plains evolved with the impacts of fire. To the soils, plants and animals that comprise our native ecosystem, fire is as natural as sunshine and rain.

No Fire, More Problems

Fire suppression over the past century or so is causing many negative impacts. The spread of eastern red cedar is nothing more than a “green dust bowl” engulfing many areas of the Southern Great Plains. Fire suppression has also reduced habitat for numerous wildlife species, especially prairie-obligate and pollinator species. It has reduced livestock forage production and watershed quality, and it has degraded human health due to increased pollen activity and increased wildfire threats. One needs to look no farther than western Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas for examples of tragic wildfires over the last few years. Additionally, with the absence of fire over time, native plant structure and diversity becomes unsuitable for supporting numerous wildlife species and livestock.

Despite the fact that fire is integral to our native ecosystem, it is not readily used across the majority of the Southern Great Plains. Fear of liability and lack of education, training and equipment prevents most landowners from applying fire to their property. The need for more fire is an issue that should take priority across the Southern Great Plains in order to bring benefits not only to landowners but also to our native ecosystem, which benefits all citizens.

Russell Stevens served as the strategic consultant manager and a wildlife and range consultant at Noble Research Institute. He received a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from the Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in animal science (range and wildlife option) from Angelo State University.