Sunday, March 29, 2015

Burning for Water

     Fire is an important aspect of prairie maintenance.  In this demonstration of a prescribed burn in Barber County, not only is the prairie rejuvenated, but a stream's flow is reclaimed. Eastern red cedar is a huge problem in the Red Hills as well as in many other parts of the Great Plains.  They not only take up valuable range land which could otherwise be excellent forage for cattle production and prairie wildlife species, they consume a large amount of water.  As per information out of Oklahoma, a 20 foot cedar tree can use as much as 30 gallons of water per day.  Multiply that by hundreds and perhaps thousands of similar cedars in a small watershed, and the impact on the local aquifer can dry up small streams.  This is a story of a stream recovery which literally has happened overnight because of the valuable application of  a prescribed burn.

This is the classic application of a backfire for the purpose of creating more
black (or safe fireguard) space on the downwind side of this prescribed burn.
The field on the right is not intended to be burned until later.

The backfire creeps into some cedars in a canyon
and the resulting inferno engulfs some large cedar trees.  Black smoke like this on the prairie is good news
for this grassland.
Keith is stringing the head fire on the upwind 
side of the prescribed burn.  Two spray units follow 
to ensure no fire creeps backwards into the fireguard 
and field on the left.

Streamflow reappears in the "Sherwood Forest"
stream almost immediately following the burn.

Cedars use a tremendous amount of water.  Once 
dead or gone from this landscape, water starts flowing 
again in the small stream in "Sherwood Forest"  on
the Alexander Ranch in Barber County.  The Alexanders 
had actually been working and planning for this particular burn for at least three years but intensified preparation 
during the past year.

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