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Prescribed Burning Guidelines
in the Northern Great Plains

Appendix A

An example of an extensive fire plan. This plan was developed for a specific site and, therefore, should not be copied as appropriate for anywhere else.


August 1983

1. SITE:

Bluestem Prairie, Clay County, Minnesota. 1,200 acres. #14-2


      PC   black soil prairie NW MN     B3/A
      SP   Spartina gracilis            B3
      SP   Orobanche fasciculata        B3
      SP   Tofieldia glutinosa          B3
      SA   greater prairie chicken      B3
      SA   loggerhead shrike            B3

Also noteworthy: fen-like areas, Carex scirpiformis, Calamagrostis montanensis, sharp-tailed sparrow, Henslow's sparrow, upland sandpiper, prairie vole. Exact EO locations not currently known for all elements.

The prairie type has been further divided by Dziadyk and Clambey (1983) into communities dominated by 1) Bouteloua gracilis and Stipa spartea, 2) Andropogon scoparius and Sporobolus heterolepis, and 3) Andropogon gerardii and Calamagrostis inexpansa.


Site is owned by TNC, leased as a Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) to the State of Minnesota. Native prairie in Buffalo River State Park is adjacent to the north. 160 acres of prairie will probably be added to the preserve in 1983. No change in status is foreseen.


Maps attached. The current preserve has four fire management units (I, II, III, IV). Boundaries between fire units approximately follow section or quarter section lines, except for the boundary between units III and IV which follows a course of relatively high ground. Lines dividing units run east and west. This is appropriate since the land generally slopes from high elevations in the east to low elevations in the west. Each fire unit thus includes a range of high to low elevations and representations of most of the different soil types and prairie communities present. (See maps in Minnesota DNR 1980).

Perimeter breaks on the west side are close to occurrences of Spartina gracilis, and these should be avoided in firebreak preparation.

An earlier plan (Minnesota MR 1980) called for eight fire units. Unless TNC receives more help from DNR with fire break mowing and prescribed burning, that plan is not feasible. The current proposal results in relatively large units, but is considered feasible. Units may be divided into smaller compartments to facilitate burning but this is considered discretionary.

The potential 160 acres addition to the south is tentatively designated as Unit V.


A general objective is to produce a rotating mosaic of different structural conditions in the prairie. Two types of structures are considered: depth of mulch and plant density at different height strata. It is well documented that prairie plants (Weaver and Rowland 1952) and animals (Kantrud 1981, Kirsch et al. 1978) respond differentially to mulch and vertical structure. By producing unit to unit variation in structure we should be able to perpetuate the full diversity of native prairie species present on the site.

Specific Objectives for Bluestem Prairie are:

1. Using the natural process of dormant season fire, remove 70% or more of the fine fuel litter in each fire unit at least once in 5 years. A 3 year fire interval is optimal. Allow mulch to accumulate between removals.

2. Maintain unit to unit variety of plant densities at different height strata. This will vary, in part, with the number of growing seasons since the last fire.

3. Accomplish objectives 1 and 2 in a mosaic, rotational pattern. Never burn more than 40% of the prairie in one season and year.

4. Maintain the principle native grasses in greater abundance than the introduced exotic, Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis).

5. Maintain trees and shrubs to approximate their current distribution, with the exception of cottonwood trees along the artificial drainage ditches.

6. Adjust management if it appears to be responsible for significant reductions in any of the five special species (ranked B3).

7. Use special treatments as advisable to reduce sweetclover (Melilotus spp.) and state-listed noxious weeds on the preserve.

The major constraints on fire management with intentional burning are the large size of the preserve and high value private buildings near the preserve. Public misunderstanding of fire management has been an impediment in the past. It is important to burn when winds will not carry smoke into sensitive areas and to explain fire management to local residents. These units require more crew and equipment and more secure firebreaks than most other smaller prairie preserves in the state.


Year            I          II          III          IV          V

1 S/F 2 May S/F S/F 3 May S/F 4 (May) S/F 5 S/F S/F 6 S/F S/F 7 S/F 8 S/F S/F 9 S/F S/F 10 S/F 11 S/F S/F etc.


The fire schedule calls for burning on a three year rotation, with burns conducted in either spring or fall (S/F). Fire management may slip up to two years behind schedule before failing the fire frequency objective. Initially, a different treatment is assigned to Unit I. The two or three successive May burns in Unit I are intended to set back the exotic Kentucky bluegrass (see Justification). There is large old field in the eastern parts of units III and IV, but annual burning would not be helpful there because of low productivity. Other disturbed areas in the site are not significant enough to warrant special recovery efforts with fire treatments.

Spring burning can be any time from snowmelt through about mid May. Fall burning is usually any time after the first hard frost, but preferably after leaf drop of woody vegetation. Fire timing may be narrowed if exotic or shrub species are observed to become problems (see Justification).

Very little information is known on the fire responses of the site's element species, with the exception of prairie chickens (see Justification). Loggerhead shrikes prefer low shrubs mixed in open prairie. The normal patchiness of burns and the three year fire interval will probably provide sufficient low shrubs for the species.

No fire effects data are available for Orobanche fasciculata, Tofieldia glutinosa, or Spartina gracilis. Information is available on Spartina pectinata which suggests how S. Gracilis may respond to fire.

Hadley (1970) found S. pectinata to have 15 times greater weight per m2 in spring burned plots compared to unburned controls. Pemble et al. (1973) showed flowering by S. pectinata to be stimulated by spring burning. This unpublished study was conducted on a tract adjacent to Bluestem Prairie. Kirsch and Kruse (1973) reported a decline in S. pectinata following burning. Thus, two of three studies show a positive effect.

The assumption is that periodic fall and spring burns, generally recommended for tallgrass prairie management, will be appropriate for these members of the tallgrass community (see Justification).


The objectives call for maintaining unit to unit variation in vertical structure but no specifications to increase structural diversity within units. There are two ways in which this may he considered in the future.

The greater prairie chicken prefers low stature and low litter areas for courtship displays in spring. This is not provided except if units are burned the previous fall. Prairie chickens tend to go off the preserve onto adjacent cultivated and grazed fields for courtship behavior. They may be encouraged to stay on Bluestem Prairie by localized mowing or fall burning. If done, this would have no major effect on the scheduled burning program.

Variation in plant structure within units is increased by light to moderate grazing by large herbivores. At present there seems to be no compelling benefit from this and it would probably favor introduced and weedy native species.

Haying is not considered an optional alternative to fire, but could be used as a contingency if burning becomes temporarily impossible within 5 year intervals due to constraints.

Especially wide perimeter firebreaks are prepared as a fire control measure, but this has no effect on the burning program. Spot herbicide treatment of certain weeds, such as leafy spurge, likewise has no effect on prescribed burning.

The biennial sweetclover (Melilotus spp.) is a problem in Bluestem Prairie. No solution is at hand but mowing late first year plants or second year plants may be utilized to reduce the problem. This might affect fuels for burning, but should require only minor adjustments in scheduling fires.


Dziadyk, B. and G. K. Clambey. 1983. Floristic composition of plant 
     communities in a western Minnesota Tallgrass Prairie. In Proc. 7th N. 
     Amer. Prairie Conference, C. L. Kucera (ed.), pp. 45-54.

Hadley, E. B. 1970. Net productivity and burning responses of native 
     eastern North Dakota prairie communities. Amer. Midl. Nat. 84: 121-135.
Kantrud, H. A. 1981. Grazing intensity effects on the breeding avifauna of 
     North Dakota native grasslands. Can. Field Nat. 95(4): 404-417.

Kirsch, L.M. and A.D. Kruse. 1973. Prairie fires and wildlife. Proc. Tall 
     Timbers Fire Ecol. Conf. 12:289-303.

Kirsch, L. M., H. F. Duebbert, and A. D. Kruse. 1978. Grazing and haying 
     effects on habitats of upland nesting birds. Trans. No. Amer. Wildl. 
     Nat. Res. Conf. 43: 486-497.

Minnesota DNR. 1980. Management plan for Buffalo River State Park.

Pemble, R. H., G. Van Amberg, and L. Mattson. 1973. Fire and flowers in a 
     Northwestern Minnesota prairie. Paper presented to the 41st Meeting, 
     Minnesota Academy of Science. Unpublished. Copy in MRO/TNC library.
Weaver, J. E. and N. W. Rowland. 1952. Effects of excessive natural mulch 
     on development, yield, and structure of native grassland. Bot. Gaz. 
     114: 1-19.
* Copies of each are in TNC MRO literature files.


SITE: Bluestem Prairie           #:         COUNTY, STATE: Clay Co., MN

PROTECTION STATUS: Owned by TNC, leased to state as Scientific & Natural 

        Fire: Glyndon 218/498-0100
        Medical: Moorhead 218/293-7744


STATE POLLUTION CONTROL: Open burning: Ron Swenson,
        612/296-7300, Roseville, MN.

STATE FORESTRY: Burn, Dist. Forester, 218/732-3309 or
        218/299-5041, Park Rapids, MN.

COUNTY PERMIT: Clay Co. Planning Dept., Jack Frederick,
        218/233-2781, Moorhead, MN.

LOCAL PERMIT: None required, notify Riverton Twsp.
        Board: Jepson & Beckett, see below.



FIRE DEPARTMENTS: Glyndon, Chief Jerry Green (H)218/498-2244, 
        Fire # 498-0100

STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT: State Patrol 218/237-7756

LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT: Clay Co. Sheriff, Moorhead, 218/236-8181

OTHER OFFICIALS: DNR Conservation Officer, Tom Campbell, Hawley 
        218/483-4241; Denton Jepson, 498-2895 and Everett Beckett         
        (h) 498-2516, (w) 233-5787. Media: Hawley Herald 218/483-3306, 
        Fargo Forum 701/235-7311, Dorothy Collins.

(Attach a list of neighbors, other contacts to make before burning. )

Fire          Size Total/            Target Fire *       Legal
Unit          Burnable               Dates & Time        Description

I         240 acres/200 acres        May for next        NW 1/4 & S 1/2
                                     2-3 yr.             of NE 1/4, Sec. 15.

II        320 acres/270 acres        Oct. or Apr.        SW 1/4 & SE
                                                         1/4, Sec. 15.

III       420 acres/400 acres        Oct. or Apr.        In E 1/2 Sec.
                                                         22 & W 1/2 Sec. 23.

IV        220 acres/200 acres        Oct. or Apr.        In E 1/2 Sec.
                                                         22 & W 1/2 Sec. 23.

*See Site Fire Plan.
All burns start after 2 pm, are completed by 9:30 pm.

Unit                     Major Fuels and Fuel-related Objectives:

I  IV                    Mostly tall grass, about 2-5 tons/acre. Reduce
                         litter by 70%, prevent new encroachment of
                         woody shrubs/trees. Flame length and rate of
                         spread predicted to be 8-15 ft. and about 300
                         ft/min. at hot end of prescription, 4 to 8 ft.
                         and about 90 ft/min. at cool end of
                         prescription. This is based on calculations
                         with T1-59 modified by experience.

Fire       Temper-      Relative      Wind Speed MPH/     Days since rain
Unit       ature        Humidity      Direction*          of fuel conditions

I          55-70         30-50%       5-15 W,             2 or more days
                                      SW or S best        since rain

II         same          same         5-15 S best         same

III        same          same         5-15 W or SW        same

IV         same          same         5-15 W, SW, W       same

*Direction preferred which minimizes smoke in direction
of roads and houses, but this is not a
condition of burning.

Equipment Items, Number Required. Use attachment if more space needed.

Fire     Pump                Drip     Torch      Tank                Weather
Unit     Cans    Swatters    Torch    Fuel       Truck      Radios     Kit 

I-IV     #6+       #4+        #2      #10 gal    #1           #3       #1
                                                 DNR unit

Truck borrowed from DNR. All other equipment - TNC.
* Water available at State Park HQ.

Fire                     Crew Size,                        Firebreak
Unit                   Qualifications                      Specifications

I                8 people, see TNC guidelines              Mow and rake 30' 
                                                           wide or road

II               8 people, see TNC guidelines              same

III             10 people, see TNC guidelines              Mow and rake 30'

IV               8 people, see TNC guidelines              Mow and rake 30'
Fire                                                       Expected fire
Unit            Hazards on and close to Fire Unit          Duration   

I               Heavy fine fuels; smoke on roads,          3 to 5 hrs.
                in houses; fire in adjacent
                fields and buildings.

II              same                                       3 to 5 hrs.

III             same                                       3 to 6 hrs.

IV              same                                       2 to 4 hrs.


SOURCE OF CREW: 6 TNC, 2 or more volunteers

ESTIMATED COST OF FIRE WORK: About $1,000 per yr. for crew and travel.


SPECIFY: Firebreak specification is below Guidelines standard.

Attach checklist for reference just prior to burning.
Attach map showing firebreaks and major features of unit(s).

PLAN PREPARED BY: Jeff Weigel                        DATE: 20 Sept. 1983

PLAN APPROVED BY:                                    DATE:



PLAN APPROVED BY:                                    DATE:

***Prescribed Fire Plan for: Bluestem Prairie-Attachment


 1. Vernon Anderson - lives on east boundary
2. Al Arneson, Sr. - owns land to south
3. Al Arneson, Jr. - owns land to south
4. Everett "Bud" Beckett - lives west of tract, on Town Board 498-2516 (h), 233-5787 or 233-1561 (w) CONTACT ALL BURNING DAYS.
5. Don/Lois Vincent - live along tract, helpful neighbors.
6. Gary/Judy Miller - live west of tract, friendly, TNC members.
7. Steve Taves - Turkey farmer to north, 498-0161 (h) CONTACT ALL BURNING DAYS.
8. Devitt Farm - live along tract - may be new resident - check
9. Denton/Theresa Jepson - Town Board Chairman
10. Gerald Andel - Town Board Member
11. Lynelle Boone - Town Board Secretary -works at BRSP.

For supplementing crew:

1. Dr. Richard Pemble, Moorhead State University (w)218/236-2572.
2. Dr. Gerald Van Amberg, Concordia College (w)218/299-3520.
3. Dr. Gary Clambey, North Dakota State University.


1. PERMIT FOR OPEN BURNING. This is a two page form on
      letterhead of the Minnesota Pollution Control
      Agency (PCA). Permit is valid when all required
      information is filled in and it is signed by an
      authorized PCA representative. PCA requires legal
      description of areas to be burned to be on or
      attached to the permit. Numerous sites burned over
      a several week to several month period may be
      covered in one permit. TNC generally receives
      permits from the State Office, though permit
      authority also resides in PCA Regional Offices and
      certain county officials.

2. PERMIT TO BURN. This is a printed form about 4 by 5 inches issued by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It must be signed by a Forestry Officer or Township Fire Warden and by the Permittee, and be in possession at the time of burning. These are usually issued for only one site and a limited time interval, but more inclusive permits have been obtained. The permit has been issued by Paul Rundell, DNR Region I Resource Coordinator, Bemidji, but may also be obtained at the Park Rapids District Forestry Office.

3. COUNTY PERMIT. This permit needs to be picked up at Clay County Planning Dept., 2nd floor Clay County Courthouse, 807 N. 11th, Moorhead. This permit has to be taken to the fire chief, signed, and returned. In the past it has been mailed back. When picking up permits,b e sure to get for other Clay Co. tracts.


Notifications and neighbor contacts require a large effort (see attached list and map of contacts which should be continually updated). It is very important that they are done, and that good records are kept. Steve Taves, the turkey farmer north of the RR tracks, must be contacted prior to all burns so he can activate ventilation systems in his barns. Everett "Bud" Beckett has asked that he also be contacted prior to all burns. Call him at work if necessary. Contact the District Forester if CNR permit is obtained elsewhere.


Backfire along downwind firebreak burn to 100-200 foot width. Complete with headfire. Ignitors and holding crew should watch for spot fires and perform preliminary mop-up. After igniting is completed, double-check perimeter for sleepers or smoldering spots. One crew member assigned to weather/fire monitoring. Crew may be needed along roads if smoke obscures visibility.

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