A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a video series by The Great Plains Fire Science program, which promoted using prescribed burns in grasslands to restore their ecosystems.
Prescribed burns are, it turns out, a great conservation tool promoted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). I started looking into whether or not plains communities in Colorado use prescribed burns and Sharon Pattee, who commented on the blog post, helped me look into the practice. Pattee is the Fountain-based director of the Upper Arkansas River Watershed, part of the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts.
Although recent rains have relieved a persistently severe drought across Colorado, the entire state is still experiencing unusual drought conditions, particularly the southeast corner. So, this could be an especially dangerous time to run a prescribed burn.
And this year the drought has had an unfortunate “domino” effect on several conservation practices, among them prescribed burns, Pattee wrote me in an email. Pattee also contacted LeRoy Hall, an NRCS conservationist based out of Greeley, to ask about prescribed burning this year. The area uses limited prescribed burns, and Hall has been trying to train specialists to create intricate prescribed burning plans. But, the drought has forestalled any training plans, as no one will be burning in state or federal lands just now.