Fire as a Conservation Method?

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Published on March 5th, 2009  |  Discuss This Article  

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Fire — that magical, powerful phenomena — can threaten societies. It can also do wonders for nature at the same time.

Some Conservancy scientists recently published a paper discussing this very thing. It’s short and well worth reading — it gives you a basic understanding of the importance of fire to the health of many ecosystems worldwide.

Fire has always been a natural part of the environment, and employing it — where it naturally occurs — is a good thing for nature, especially biodiversity. So the Conservancy often uses ecological fire to restore habitats on lands it protects.

For example, the Conservancy office in Fort Hood, TX — where I currently live — uses fire to rejunvenate habitat for an endangered species of songbird: The Black-capped vireo.

This bird really likes the plants and shrubs that grow back after a fire has moved through the land, and as a result, Fort Hood has some of the largest populations of the Black-capped vireo along its migratory route.

But humans have a long-standing fear of fire. When the Fort Hood office is conducting a controlled burn, the response ripples through our community here because the plume can be seen for miles.

The Conservancy always weighs the benefits and risks when working to establish fire’s ecological role, especially where humans are involved.

And we use learning networks all over the world to help educate about fire’s natural role and how to best use it so that it serves nature and people.

Yet fire still brings out a primal fear, even if it’s being used for good. So tell us: Do you live near lands where managers use ecological fire? And if so, what does your community think about the prescribed burns? Also, what do you think about the paper linked above? Leave a comment and let us know.

(Image: Prescribed fire in Nebraska. Credit: Chris Helzer/TNC.)

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Comments: Fire as a Conservation Method?

  •  Comment from Dennis Toll

    Fire and prescribed burns have long been an important part of the Kansas Flint Hills. Ranchers use fire to keep the tallgrass prairie healthy and the cattle growing. Most folks around here understand that and welcome the April burnings. Those in bigger towns – Topeka, Kansas City – who smell the smoke often complain and call for a ban on burnings, thinking the fires hurt the environment. News reports often blame burning for hurting prairie chicken populations and more people call for the end of fire. Without fire, however, there would be no prairie left around here. The Flint Hills would be a cedar forest.

    I would like to see more blog posts on the tallgrass prairie. After all, the NC works with the Konza and the TPNP. Thanks for that, by the way.

  •  Comment from elizabeth rajuayi

    Fire and prescribed burns have long been an important part of the taita taveta. Ranchers use fire to keep the tallgrass prairie healthy . Most folks around here understand that and welcome the April burnings. Those in bigger towns – mombasa, coast province City – who smell the smoke often complain and call for a ban on burnings, thinking the fires hurt the environment. Without fire, however, there would be no prairie left around here. The Flint Hills would be a cedar forest.

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