Hot Springs, SD March 26, 2019 – The Rocky Mountain Research Station in Rapid City plans to continue the successful research program that began last fall to study the effects of fire on the regeneration of native and exotic plants on the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. The study focuses on how fire affects the regeneration and abundance of desirable forbs and grasses as well as introduced species such as annual brome.
As weather and ground conditions permit, prescribed burning for this project will resume in late March or early April at 20 sites scattered across the Fall River and Wall Ranger Districts. At each site, ignitions will take place within pre-constructed steel burn boxes 2 meters by 4 meters in size. The total area to be burned this spring under this project is less than two tenths of an acre.
In order to ensure that the objectives of the project are met and that the burns are controlled inside the burn boxes, a very specific set of weather conditions has been established for this project. The burns will not be ignited unless weather conditions including temperature, wind speed, and relative humidity, fall within specific ranges. The burns will be managed by personnel from the Nebraska National Forest and Grasslands and notifications will be made to local cooperating agencies and affected permittees on each burn day.
“Almost all grassland spring growth and regrowth following disturbance comes from below-ground buds. If we want a better understanding of the above-ground responses of our grasslands to different management practices, we need a better understanding of how these important buds respond to the drivers of fire, grazing and climate,” said Jacqueline Ott, Research Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Mike McNeill, Fall River District Ranger, emphasized the importance of having site-specific research conducted in western S.D. “This research will provide important information on the role and effects of fire specific to maintaining healthy working landscapes in our part of the country.”