Controlled burns are often called prescribed burns because wildlife managers write a careful prescription of the weather conditions, equipment, and people necessary to safely conduct a burn that will have the desired ecological effect. Fire is used to help wildlife and wildlife habitat by stimulating prairie plant growth, increasing soil nutrients, and setting back the invading trees and other species not adapted to life on the prairie. Prairie animals are also adapted to fire. Some go underground during the fire. Others simply fly or run away from the fire. Sometimes, birds lose their nests to fire, but native grassland species have an adaptation for this: they quickly respond by building a new nest and laying a new clutch of eggs. While there is some short-term harm to some nests or animals, these same species depend on fire for their survival, since many prairie plants and animals cannot survive long, once shrubs or trees take over their grassland habitat. Rotational Livestock Grazing
Refuge managers work together with local ranchers to mimic natural disturbances that were once caused by large herds of free-ranging bison and elk on the prairie. Through livestock grazing, invasive cool-season grasses and other invasive plants can be stressed, which favors native grasses and forbs such as western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, blue grama, little bluestem, purple coneflowers, goldenrods and low growing shrubs. Grazing can greatly influence the structure and diversity of grassland communities.
Water Level Management
Water levels on wetlands are carefully monitored and controlled with water control structures, to foster desired plant growth. Management objectives focus on providing habitat and food for nesting, rearing, and migrating birds. An especially important plant, sago pondweed, provides shoots and tubers as a food source for birds. The invertebrates these plants support are also an important food source for waterfowl, shorebirds, and many other wildlife species, especially when nurturing broods.
Invasive Species Control
Invasive species are plants and animals that are not native to an area, and can cause economic or environmental harm. One of the largest threats to public lands in the United States, next to habitat loss, is the invasion of invasive plant and animal species. If left unchecked, invasive species can alter habitat and water quality.
Refuge managers utilize livestock grazing, burning, chemical application and insects to control invasive plants such as Smooth brome grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Canada thistle, Absinth wormwood, leafy spurge, Russian olive and Siberian elm trees.
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'Wild beasts and birds are by right not the property merely of the people who are alive today, but the property of unknown generations, whose belongings we have no right to squander.'