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Breakthrough at the Missouri River Breaks: a quick tool for comparing burned and unburned sites

Author(s): Rachel Clark
Year Published: 2009

A quantitative understanding of how forests work, both before and after (prescribed and wild) fire, is essential to management. Yet acquiring the kind of broad yet detailed information needed for many management decisions can be costly, tedious, and time-consuming. After two sweeping wildfires in the Missouri River Breaks area of eastern Montana-the Indian and Germaine wildfires-some researchers wanted to see whether it was possible to characterize both pre-fire and post-fire characteristics in a relatively inexpensive and efficient way. Specifically, they wanted to know whether prescribed fire that is then followed by wildfire, is more likely to meet management objectives. Theresa Jain, a research forester at the Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, and her colleagues set out to do just that. After creating a careful plan, a small crew set off into the area, collected quick, but thorough data, and photographs. They were able to compare 'pre burn' (untouched by fire) areas, to areas that had been exposed to wildfire, prescribed fire, or both. They created summaries and handbooks for their results. Although the data are not statistically significant, there is a trend in the region of this study suggesting that wildfire after a prescribed burn is more effective at meeting management objectives than either wildfire or prescribe fire alone. The handbooks offer not only specific information on the region, but also serve as a handbook for managers and planners who want to do the same thing in a different region.

Citation: Clark, Rachel. 2009. Breakthrough at the Missouri River Breaks: a quick tool for comparing burned and unburned sites. Joint Fire Science Program Fire Science Brief. October 2009(73): 1-6.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Fuels
Ecosystem(s): Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Research Brief or Fact Sheet
NRFSN number: 11085
FRAMES RCS number: 8007
Record updated: May 24, 2018