State Wildlife Grant - T2-11-HM

Project Title

Restoration of Fire Regimes on the Missouri Coteau to Support Native Prairie and Prairie Obligate Species

Target Species

Numerous grassland associated species

Timeline

March 2010 – June 2013

Investigators

Eric Rosenquist, The Nature Conservancy

Description

Native prairies of the Missouri Coteau face significant threats from encroachment of invasive grasses and brush, particularly Smooth Brome, Kentucky Bluegrass and Western snowberry. Some rangeland ecologists consider the encroachment of Kentucky Bluegrass as the second most serious threat to native prairie behind direct conversion. However, the traditional use of fire management in the spring may not always be the most beneficial time to suppress cool season invasive grasses. The use of late season fire followed by grazing over a 2-3 year period has been shown to more successfully control the spread of Kentucky Bluegrass compared to spring burns. TNC proposes to develop a late-summer/fall fire team to implement prescribed burning on the Missouri Coteau. There is interest and need for late-summer/fall burning among other natural resource management agencies, however, due to financial constraints, agency priorities, and logistical issues most agencies have not fully applied fire management in ways that replicate the historical role fire played in maintaining grasslands. The ND Fire Council, which is made up of fire management professionals from all the ND agencies using prescribed fire, is also supportive of the proposal. Successful implementation and ecological response will serve as a catalyst to motivate other grassland managers to diversify current management practices.