Photo of the Week – July 27, 2012

I just got home from several days at the Niobrara Valley Preserve.  Dealing with the wildfire has sapped everyone’s energy – even mine, and I didn’t get there until it was mostly over.  There are still areas of smoking logs and debris, but they’re surrounded by lots of black, so no one is paying them any attention.  The staff at the Preserve are finally getting some time to relax and reflect, and while there’s a tremendous amount of fence to fix, the fire saved years of work removing eastern red cedar trees.  I’ll bet it’ll be easier to appreciate that when we’ve all caught up on sleep.

I’ve got lots of photos I haven’t even had time to look at yet, but I promise to get to them as soon as I can and give you a more complete update on the situation next week.  In the meantime, here’s one additional photo from the Preserve this week.  After all that’s happened, it’s good to see the sun still comes up…

The sun rises over the Niobrara River Valley after nearly 58,000 acres burned in wildfires this week.

This entry was posted in Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

10 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – July 27, 2012

  1. Perfect placement of the various elements in the photo, and perfect timing of the exposure when the sun was just breaking above the horizon. Killer sky too. You certainly have a wonderful eye for composition.

  2. Striking photo and a positive note about the fire removal of non-native cedar – thanks for letting everyone see and experience the story.

  3. The first assistant director of our National Park Service once said, “If you cannot work hard ten or twelve hours a day, and always with patience and a smile on your face, don’t fill out the attached blank.” Your blog always reminds me of what is best about our country. And I’m not just referring to the landscapes.

  4. Good to hear things out there are mostly ok. Did you get a sense for how hot the burn was compared to most prescribed burns done out there? Also I was curious whether summer burns have been conducted before on the preserve. Great to have a place like that as a living laboratory.

    • Patrick,

      The fire intensity was certainly hotter than most prescribed burns because the air temperature was over 100, winds strong, and relative humidities very low. Those are conditions outside the prescriptions we’d use for prescribed burns. That sure influenced the fact that the fire crowned through the cedars and pines – something that we have a hard time doing even if we want to on a prescribed fire because we have to burn within a prescription that helps ensure safety. In the grasslands, that intensity probably didn’t have much functional difference – we can get complete incineration of the grassland vegetation in a prescribed fire as well, and if it burns it burns…

      Yes, summer fires have been conducted in the past, so we know what to expect from those. We should see a little stronger forb community next year, especially the shorter lived species.


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