This spring students from five western universities are spurning the beach and instead focusing on another kind of heat—controlled burns. Right now they are in Nebraska’s Niobrara Valley working 12-hour days, learning to use fire to safely restore prairies and woodlands. Training organizers are fire-treating 5,500 acres, which will benefit people, water, and wildlife.
This part of Nebraska was hit hard by wildfires in 2012. While large, destructive “megafires” have become more common in the last decade, smaller fires have always played a natural role in keeping America’s forests and grasslands open and healthy. In fact, biologists believe historically around two-thirds of the United States burned at least once every 35 years.
Over the past 50 years The Nature Conservancy has been working to restore our natural fire cycle to improve habitat for wildlife, increase water storage by our forests, and reduce the potential of destructive megafires.
But what does a controlled burn look like? Earlier this year students from the University of Montana travelled down to the Conservancy’s Broxton Rocks Preserve in Georgia to find out— take a look in the video above!