Saving Nebraska’s Oak Woodlands… by Burning Them

Last week, I helped arrange a tour of recently-burned oak woodlands at Indian Cave State Park, an eastern Nebraska site owned and managed by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.  Indian Cave State Park is one of very few deciduous woodlands in Nebraska that is managed with prescribed fire.  The Nature Conservancy’s Rulo Bluffs Preserve is another, but while we started using fire back in the mid 1990’s, we’ve not been able to use it as consistently as we’d like.  Seeing the results of four years of annual burning at Indian Cave State Park was a good incentive to keep trying to find ways to increase our burn frequency down at Rulo.  You can read here about a fire we conducted at Rulo last year.

Kent Pfeiffer (center) stands in a portion of woodland that has been burned four years in a row and points out some of the changes that have occurred over that time.

The tour was led by Gerry Steinauer (state botanist for Nebraska Game and Parks) and Kent Pfeiffer (Northern Prairies Land Trust), who have been leading the charge for woodland burning in eastern Nebraska.  In addition to Kent and Gerry, and several other Game and Parks biologists, the tour group included staff from the Nebraska Forest Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

We started by talking about why Game and Parks is implementing prescribed fire at Indian Cave State Park.  Some of those reasons include:

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