Niobrara Valley Preserve to Host National Fire Event

Residents in the Johnstown area should expect to see smoke in the air from March 8th - 22nd. Fire workers from as far away as Spain will call The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve home as they learn and burn at the 5th fire training exchange.

Johnstown, NE | February 25, 2014

Safety is paramount to the exchange’s leaders, who work under national standards. “We choose the safest time of year to hold this training. We anchor into previously burned areas, spend months working on burn plans, and relentlessly monitor weather reports. Local fire departments are involved in the permitting process,” said Jeremy Bailey, Associate Director for Fire Training for The Nature Conservancy.

The exchange was designed to meet the training needs of fire workers – those who serve state and federal conservation agencies and fire departments, as well as private sector nonprofits, businesses, and landowners. It is also a way to bring much-needed fire to places that need it.

“We know this landscape needs fire, and we’ve seen the benefits of regular controlled burns for wildlife and for grazing on the Preserve,” said Rich Walters, Program Director at the Niobrara Valley Preserve. “We’ve also seen what happens when too much fuel builds up. The 2012 wildfire was a stark reminder of that. Having the personnel to get fire on the ground safely is essential. It’s a great two-way street of teaching and learning.” Weather conditions permitting, participants hope to burn 7,100 acres at the Preserve and 2,200 more on private lands.

One hundred and ten people are expected from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. One participant is coming all the way from Spain. “The Niobrara Valley Preserve has been an important base from which exchange programs have grown,” said Bailey. “Folks who have met and trained in Nebraska have duplicated the event in South Africa and Spain.”

Large numbers of workers means a high level of vigilance in planning.

Multiple private and public partners assemble to contribute resources for the exchange. They include: the Fire Learning Network, the Nebraska Forest Service, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Firestorm, the Niobrara Council, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pheasants Forever and the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange will join the roster for a second exchange to be held in the Loup River area later in the month. Personnel will include 12 firefighters from Spain, a dozen municipal firefighters and emergency managers, including contract, federal and state fire organizations.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Jill Wells
(402) 342-0282 x 1002


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