Frontier Extension District school to promote safe and effective prescribed grassland burns – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Frontier Extension District school to promote safe and effective prescribed grassland burns

Speakers to share guidelines for planning and conducting burns, and having necessary tools

By Carol Engle
Frontier Extension District Communications and Marketing Manager

OTTAWA, Kan. – K-State Research and Extension Frontier District will host a school to teach attendees how to plan and conduct a safe and effective prescribed burn of grasslands. Tools needed for burns will also be discussed. The school will be held 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, at the Neosho County Community College, Ottawa Campus, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa, Kan. A chili lunch will be available with a donation appreciated to cover costs. Registration is requested by Friday, Feb. 23, to Rod Schaub, Frontier Extension agricultural agent, at 785-828-4438 or rschaub@ksu.edu.

Presenters for the school will include Ethan Walker, NRCS range specialist, David Kraft, Kansas Grazing Land Coalition, Justin Harbit, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and Nathan Griesemer, National Weather Service. Topics will include reasons to burn, weather conditions for burning, equipment needed and planning for and conducting a burn, fire behavior, hazards and precautions, liability and CRP rules.

“Burning of native grasses in our area goes back hundreds of years and is responsible for the development of the grassy Great Plains,” Schaub said. “That’s why we need this type of meeting – we’ll discuss the reasons to burn, how to plan and conduct a prescribed burn, and how to be safe while burning.”

Schaub said that when he first became an extension agent in Osage County about 30 years ago, a man came to his office and talked with him about a letter he had from the mid 1800s. The letter discussed a trip a relative had made from northwest Osage County to southeast Osage County. It talked about a vast sea of native grass with no trees in sight. The native grasses were so high that he had to kneel on his horse’s saddle to see over the grass. The trip ended near Quenemo, where they saw trees on the north bank of the Maris des Cygnes River, the only trees they had seen.

This story was almost hard to believe, Schaub said, but fires, both natural and man-made, were responsible for the development of this huge area of grassland. Based on early records, these fires varied from only a few acres to thousands of acres and lasted weeks.

“Fire has always played a significant role in preventing woody plants from invading the prairie,” Schaub said. “Many other benefits also occur when grasses are burned under favorable conditions and with proper timing. These benefits may include increased forage quality, improved grazing distribution, increased stocker cattle gains, improved wildlife habitat and survival of the young, faster development of newly seeded grasses and reduced wildfire hazards.”

The purpose of the Feb. 26 school is to help current landowners and producers safely use fire as a tool to manage and improve their grasslands.

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