Private Lands Burning

Fire Management on Private Lands

The Prairie Coteau Habitat Partnership’s current primary focus is to provide prescribed fire planning and implementation services to producers on the South Dakota side of the Prairie Coteau. Producers are selected based on various criteria and are involved in identifying goals and strategies for managing their property.

It is the purpose of the Prairie Coteau Habitat Partnership to provide fire planning and implementation resources to private landowners on the Prairie Coteau. Because we are currently funded with grants, we do not charge for these services. This may not always be the case in the future, and we will be posting updates to this website as resource opportunities change.

We encourage safe, effective, and efficient use of fire that utilizes the highest professional and safety standards. However, within that framework we believe there is opportunity for private landowners to become competent and capable of incorporating fire on their own properties in a safe and socially-sound manner. For an individual to achieve the goal of providing their own fire services takes knowledge and experience that is best attained by attending training seminars or other such information sharing events.

This section of the website is dedicated to those landowners who wish to apply for fire services through the Partnership and those who wish to learn more about fire self-service.

Landowner Applicant Qualification

We have an application process for producers wishing to receive fire services. Our program is still relatively small, and we can plan and implement between 30 and 50 burns annually. Our burn season is generally restricted to the spring.

We review and rank applications annually. Fire services are not necessarily based on a first apply – first served basis. Rather, we look at the full scope and intent of objectives provided by the producer and weigh the projects against each other.

Priority is given to producers wishing to utilize fire and improve grazing practices on native prairie/pasture/grassland that is currently enrolled in some type of long-term easement or habitat project (such as US Fish and Wildlife Service grassland or wetland easements, Wetland Reserve Program, or Northern Prairie’s Land Trust easements).

However, native grasslands not under any program also rank high if the producer shows a tendency to want to improve the ranch for both wildlife and cattle.

Second priority is grass plantings and habitat projects under any of the various conservation programs.

***All producers receiving services from the partnership must agree to a sign a 10 year US Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Extension Agreement (see below for more detail). 

How to Apply for PCHP Fire Services

Step 1: Contact us. This is a good first step to discuss your initial interest and to ask questions about the application process.

Step 2: Plan ahead. Generally, fire services are performed during the spring following the application. The application process is continually open, but applications received by August 1 will receive priority consideration for the following spring fire season. Applications received after January 1 will likely have to wait until the following spring (15 months) for fire services.

***Those interested in burning on grazed pastures must provide a full year of rest the year prior to the spring fire. Example:  if wishing to be considered for a 2012 spring burn, the pasture must be rested during the entire 2011 grazing season to ensure adequate fuel load and desired fire effects. No adjustments, no exceptions. Producers not following through with the complete rest requirement will not receive the planned fire.

Step 3: Fill out an application. The application is made up of several parts and includes examples of required documents. Each section of the application is discussed below.

  • Cover letter: Describes the general program
  • Maps: We need to know a lot of specifics about your property for planning and safety reasons
  • Questionnaire: Describes your goals and objectives
Legal Document Examples
  • Wildlife Extension Agreement (WEA): 10 year agreement to keep you property in grassland. This is signed by the landowner on the day of the fire event.
  • Liability Waiver: Acknowledges that you are requesting our services. Allows us to come onto your property for burning and monitoring. Must be signed and returned with application packet.
  • Burn Plan: The final product of all the above information. Officially reviewed by certified fire personnel. Signed by landowner prior to fire.

Step 4: Submit Application. Send all supporting application materials to Joe Blastick at P.O. Box 816, Clear Lake, SD 57226. If you have any questions, please contact Joe at 605-874-8517or

What To Expect
  • Pastures:  All properties will require at least one year rest from grazing or haying to allow for fuel to accumulate before a burn can be implemented. Cost share programs (link) are available through NRCS for grazing deferments to allow fuel accumulation for future prescribed fires. *See your local NRCS representative.
  • CRP, WRP, WHIP, EQUIP, or other state or federal programs.  Many programs have specific rules regarding timing and allowance for disturbance, including fire.  It is up to the individual landowner to research the rules and regulations pertaining to a specific project area or land tract.  Partnership staff will help you determine who you may need to contact, but the Partnership and its supporting agencies ARE NOT responsible for obtaining the required permissions, permits, or waivers in regard to burning on these lands. Gathering that information is the sole responsibility of the producer. 
  • In mid to late summer, a fire specialist will scout your property for the purposes of fire planning and prioritizing. *During a burn, access to neighboring lands is often required for safety reasons. It will be the landowner’s responsibility to seek permission for burn crew access to adjacent neighboring properties.
  • From September to October, a technician will install mowed fire breaks as needed. *Before this can occur, landowners will need to fill out the License and Waiver of Liability.
  • The Burn: prescribed burns will be implemented from mid-April through May. The exact timing of the burn will be dependent on the ecological goals of the property and as always, weather. Landowners must be present when the burn occurs.
  • In signing the License and Waiver of Liability, the landowner agrees to allow post-burn monitoring on their property.  *Monitoring activities are low-impact and would likely include: biomass clipping, species composition surveying, etc.
  • Noxious weeds would remain the responsibility of landowner. The PCHP discourages broad scale application of herbicides for noxious weeds and/or native flowering forbs or woody plants.



Stay Updated

Learn about the places you love and find out how you can help by signing up for Nature eNews.

I'm already on the list Read our privacy policy

Thank you for joining our online community!

We'll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates, and exciting stories.