Prairie Fires and Grazing
Fire was a natural event on the Northern Tallgrass Prairie and
was started by lightning or Native American hunters who were driving game. In
western Minnesota, fire was the dominant force in shaping grasslands. This area
generally receives enough rain to support trees, but fire, bison grazing and
periodic drought helped to keep the forests from expanding westward.
As humans settled and the prairie was broken and fragmented,
fires could not carry across the expanses they once did. Whether it was a fire
or intense short term grazing by nomadic bison, grassland plants evolved a
dependence on frequent disturbance. Today, fire, haying, and grazing are used to
stimulate native grasses. The District has to rely on local farmers and ranchers
for assistance with haying and grazing. These activities can be detrimental if
they are not carefully planned. Fire can be an inexpensive and controlled way
for us to successfully manage a prairie tract.