Ranchers know that prescribed burning can help control weeds and encourage desirable forage plants, but how and when it’s done can make all the difference for effectiveness and safety. To help landowners best apply this tool, Dr. Charles “Butch” Taylor, director of the Texas A&M University Sonora Research Station, will teach a series of Prescribed Burn Task Force schools in Nebraska. There will be four schools during the first week of February on dates and at locations to be determined, announced John Ortmann, task-force vice president.

Taylor was the driving force behind the formation of the Edwards Plateau Prescribed Burning Association, which numbers more than 600 members in the Texas Hill Country. Like much of central Nebraska’s rangelands, the EdwardsPlateau is heavily infested with juniper species growing on rugged terrain. Taylor was an early advocate of burning under extreme weather conditions so as to provide maximum juniper kill. The association has adopted this approach and routinely burns at temperatures over 100 degrees. Its success in safely doing so has resulted in it being granted special permission to burn under Texas state burn bans.

Taylor will cover objectives of using prescribed fire, fire behavior and weather, and burning techniques and planning. He also will discuss formation of prescribed-burn associations, in which community landowners and managers combine in a formal organization. The association approach provides adequate expertise, equipment and personnel to conduct fires safely and effectively. Other, local instructors will cover safety, equipment and Nebraska law regulating fire use.

The Prescribed Burn Task Force was formed in 1994. Since then it has held 48 schools attended by 1,426 students, while demonstration burns total 30,380 acres. The schools teach safe and effective use of fire as a management tool, and school graduates can use task-force burn equipment for a nominal fee. Instructors have included leading prescribed-fire experts from Nebraska and across the United States. Task-force membership includes landowners and agency personnel primarily from Buffalo, Custer, Dawson and Lincoln counties. Members include volunteer firefighters, Central Platte, Lower Loup, Tri-Basin, Twin Platte natural resources districts, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, University of Nebraska Extension Service, Pheasants Forever and the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District.

For more information, contact Dr. John Ortmann, Lower Loup Natural Resources District Natural Resources District prescribed-burn coordinator at (308) 738-32444 ext. 116, or by e-mail at john.ortmann@ne.nacdnet.net.