Prescribed Fire

Prescribed Fire on Cattails of Pond 5-photo

 Regional (R6) Fire Management Goals: "to maintain and improve the biological integrity of the region, ensure the ecological condition of the region’s public and private lands are better understood, and endorse sustainable use of habitats that support native wildlife and people’s livelihoods.”

Prescribed Fire Actions on the Refuge photoPrescribed burning is a management tool that has been used on the refuge since 1988 to control some invasive plant species or undesirable monotypic vegetation stands, particularly cattails. It is also used to clear ditches of vegetation that may impede waterflow. One of the most widespread uses of prescribed fire on the refuge is to rejuvenate grassland vigor.

Since 2004, the refuge has burned 491 acres to improve grassland habitat and 463 acres to improve wetlands. Each year 3–5 acres of ditches are burned to keep them free of vegetation allowing water to travel more freely.

When used properly, fire can accomplish the following:

  • Reduce hazardous fuel buildup in both wildland–urban interface areas and non-wildland–urban interface areas. 
  • Improve wildlife habitats by reducing the density of vegetation, changing the plant species composition, or both. 
  • Sustain or increase biological diversity. 
  • Improve woodland and shrubland by reducing plant density. 
  • Reduce susceptibility of plants to insect and disease outbreaks. 
  • Increase the quantity of water available for municipalities and activities that depend on wildland water supplies. 

Prescribed Fire StrategistsLee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge will suppress human-caused fires and wildfires that threaten life and property. Appropriate suppression actions—whether aggressive, high intensity, or low intensity—will be based on preplanned analysis, executed to minimize costs and resource losses, and consistent with land management objectives.

Prescribed fire, as well as manual and mechanical fuel treatments, will be used in an ecosystem context to protect both Federal and private property and for habitat management purposes. Fuel reduction activities will be applied in collaboration with Federal, State, private, and nongovernmental partners. For wildland–urban interface treatments, focal areas will be those with community wildfire protection plans and designated communities at risk. The only community at risk near the refuge, as identified in the Federal Register, is the community of Stevensville, Montana. The State of Montana has developed a community wildfire protection plan for all communities in Ravalli County.

Prescribed Fire Results north of White Barn-photoAll aspects of the fire management program will be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable laws, Department of Interior and Service policies, and guidance established at national, regional, and local levels. Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge will maintain a fire management plan to accomplish the fire management goals described below. Wildland fire, prescribed fire, and manual and mechanical fuel treatments will be applied under selected weather and environmental conditions, monitored using scientific techniques, and refined using adaptive management.