Prescribed burning is primarily used to stop the spread of woody vegetation that has increased over the years without the aid of fire suppression. The many clumps of aspen now on the Refuge are a perfect example of this encroachment. Prescribed burning also helps control the spread of non-native plant species.
Refuge staff must keep up on fire qualifications in order to be certified to preform controlled burns. Safety is key when planning for a prescribed fire. Typically the weather will always play the major factor in planning and executing a controlled burn.
The livestock rotational grazing system replicated the historic effects of bison. This intensive, short duration system is directed primarily at reducing the exotic cool season, sod-forming grasses (e.g. smooth bromegrass and Kentucky bluegrass) while increasing the vigor of native grasses.
As bison herds diminished the composition of grassland plants and animal species began to change dramatically, cattle have since replaced bison and they stimulate native grasses. Over time, livestock grazing is slowly restoring and sustaining native prairie grassland species and the unique mix of animals that rely on this habitat.
Noxious Weed Control
The spread of noxious weeds has been difficult and expensive for refuge managers. Leafy Spurge is perhaps the most difficult of all exotic plants on the refuge. It requires treatment beyond fire and grazing to control. Current techniques include introducing spurge-eating flea beetles, limited herbicide application, and mowing.
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A rare and declining songbird of the northern prairie, Sprague's Pipit is a small bird of the open grasslands. Though it feeds and nests exclusively on the ground, the species performs the longest known flight display of any bird.