Most landowners agree with the benefits to wildlife, rangeland and in controlling eastern red cedar trees through prescribed burning. According to Pheasants Forever biologist, Pete Berthelsen of Elba, understanding the benefits is not enough. Landowners often see too many obstacles as barriers to burning on their own land.
In an effort to overcome these limitations, Pheasants Forever has teamed up with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Nebraska Environmental Trust and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop prescribed burning resources for farmers and landowners who organize into prescribed burn associations.
According to Berthelsen, the three most common limitations to prescribed burning include: not knowing how to conduct a safe, effective burn; not having the labor to carry out a prescribed burn; and not having the proper equipment.
Pheasants Forever and the organization's partners have been working to get past these barriers in Nebraska since 2007, Berthelsen says. And their work is resulting in some success.
Today, there are 10 prescribed burn associations across the state. Since 2008, those associations have conducted 414 prescribed burns covering just over 27,000 acres, he says. Pheasants Forever and the organization's partners developed a series of burn workshops to teach landowners and conservation professionals how to conduct a safe burn. They have educated more than 1,800 people since 2008.
Using grant money from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Pheasants Forever developed mobile prescribed burn units for every burn association, complete with $28,000 worth of burn equipment. "These units have basically everything you would need for a safe and effective prescribed burn in a grassland environment," says Berthelsen. "They have drip torches, backpack sprayers, vests and radios. You name it."
The associations themselves provide labor. "The best way to describe an association is neighbor helping neighbor," Berthelsen says.
For landowners who wish to establish a burn association in their own region, they first should contact Pheasants Forever for guidance. A biologist, like Berthelsen, is assigned as a mentor for each association, and each group receives a well-equipped mobile burn unit.
You can learn more by reading an upcoming print article in Nebraska Farmer or by contacting the state prescribed burn coordinator, Ben Schiltz, at firstname.lastname@example.org.