A Prescription for Learning & Burning
Multiple Agencies to Host Fire Training Exchange in the Niobrara Valley
Johnstown, NE | February 26, 2013
Residents in the Niobrara Valley are likely to see smoke in the air from time to time during controlled burning events to be held March 8th-23rd. Sixty firefighters from across Nebraska and Iowa as well as Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington are assembling for the fourth annual fire training exchange in the area.
“Last year’s devastating fires – not just in Nebraska but across the U.S. - were a terrible reminder of the urgent need to proactively manage our forests and grasslands. Tree thinning, grazing, and controlled burns are proven to reduce flammable vegetation and help lessen the potential for future catastrophes,” said Jeremy Bailey, Associate Director for Fire Training at The Nature Conservancy. “This training exchange has the dual benefit of improving conditions in the Niobrara Valley and preparing fire professionals to safely lead their own efforts. We’re here to promote healthy forests and grasslands and enhance wildlife habitat.”
The Conservancy, the Fire Learning Network, Firestorm, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Niobrara Council, Niobrara Prescribed Fire Association, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Nebraska Forest Service, Prescription Pyro LLC, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are contributing equipment, money, and expertise to this effort.
“We have federal and state agencies, private nonprofits, small businesses and local leaders working together with a goal of 7,000 acres’ worth of controlled burns on privately-owned and state-managed land,” said the Conservancy’s Rich Walters, Niobrara Valley Preserve Manager. “Everything will depend on having the right conditions at the right time.”
It’s a point Bailey is quick to emphasize. “Safety always comes first,” he said. “We chose what is historically the safest time of the year to burn. We plan for months in advance. We will only burn under appropriate weather conditions, with experienced personnel and all the required equipment.”
The organizers hope to extend the message beyond the project’s boundaries. Efforts to reduce fuel levels in areas near communities are most effective when done in tandem with other efforts. For example, homeowners can reduce their wildfire risk and take steps such as creating “defensible space” around their homes, and by using fire-resistant building materials. “We are hoping to increase local support for Firewise and Fire Adapted Communities programs, and to coordinate those efforts with future training events,” said Bailey.
The training participants are staying at The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve, where 29,824 acres – about half of the Preserve – were touched by wildfire in 2012.
“Hosting at the Preserve this year provides an excellent opportunity to learn about wildfire behavior and aftereffects. You can also see firsthand land that was part of last year’s training effort – acres that had undergone a spring burn and fuels management – didn’t burn and in some cases caused the fire to lose momentum,” said Walters.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org