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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fire Management Program is responsible for protecting and restoring lands in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Pacific Islands territories.

Prairies Bounce Back From Fire, Study Shows


A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report published by the federal Joint Fire Science Program shows that grassland vegetation, soil cover and animals generally return to pre-burn conditions within 10 years of a fire.

The study found, however that fire suppression on prairies in the past 100 years resulted in the growth of tall, woody vegetation where such plants rarely existed. This phenomenon seems to encourage a greater number of nest predators as well as more nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds, which subsequently reduces some local bird populations.

Grassland birds are historically well-adapted to fire and most of the bird populations returned the second or third growing season after a fire, according to study surveys. This would seem to bode well for prescribed fires in grasslands as a way to control unnatural buildup of flammable vegetation.

The study, “Historic Fire Regimes and Change Since European Settlement on the Northern Mixed Prairie: Effect on Ecosystem Function and Fire Behavior” can be read online at

The Joint Fire Science Program is a Congressionally mandated partnership of six federal wildland fire and research organizations, including U.S. Forest Service and the five bureaus within the Department of Interior: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey. These agencies provide wildland fire and fuels information and tools to specialists and managers who make wildland fuels management decisions. The information helps agencies develop sound, scientifically based land use and activity plans.

 For more information about the program, go to


The bobolink is a signature species of Montana and North Dakota prairies. The species nested most successfully the first two to three years after a fire.

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