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Effects of fire in the northern Great Plains

Author(s): Kenneth F. Higgins, Arnold D. Kruse, James L. Piehl
Year Published: 1989

Fire has been used inconsistently to manage native and tame grasslands in the Northern Great Plains (NGP) of the north-central U.S. and south-central Canada, particularly the grasslands found in prairies, plains, agricultural land retirement programs, and moist soil sites. This has happened for three primary reasons: (1) the reduction of American Indian use of fire after 1875, (2) fire suppression and land use changes that put increasingly more acres under annual tillage since about the same time, and (3) a growing resistance to the use of fire since about 1940, largely due to media overemphasis of its harmful effects (e.g., 'Bambi' and 'Smokey the Bear'). Little can be done to change the first two factors but there is ample opportunity to change human attitudes about fire. Attitudes change when the knowledge (or lack of it) changes. We believe that people have been reluctant to include fire in resource management programs in the NGP because of a lack of adequate information about the effects of fire on the soils, plants, and animals in the region. This document provides information concerning fire effects on the grassland biome of the NGP, with special emphasis on the use of fire for wildlife management. In several instances we have drawn from published literature outside the geographic region, but only to provide a more complete reference for readers and decision makers. In most instances, we only state or abstract the published findings of others without interpretation, either pro or con. Readers can fit the information into their specific circumstances.

Citation: Higgins, Kenneth F.; Kruse, Arnold D.; Piehl, James L. 1989. Effects of fire in the northern Great Plains. US Fish and Wildlife Service and Cooperative Extension Service, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/habitat/fire/index.htm (version 2000 May 16).
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Soils, Vegetation, Wildlife, Fire & Wildlife, Habitat Assessment, Fuels, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Naturally-ignited Fire-use treatments, Prescribed Fire-use treatments
Ecosystem(s): Riparian woodland/shrubland, Mountain shrubland/wooded draw, Sagebrush steppe, Lower montane/foothills/valley grassland
Document Type: Synthesis, Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 11184
FRAMES RCS number: 5834
Record updated: Jul 3, 2018