Kansas Wildlife Federation

Monday, April 26 2004

Flint Hills Burns

One of the most dramatic sights in Kansas is a prairie fire at night. The Topeka Capitol Journal has this article giving an overview of spring range burning.

Range burning in Kansas simulates pre-settlement prairie fires, but “natural” fires would vary in time throughout the year, and might happen once every two or three years. Why does intense burning happen in one short period of time, every year?

Here’s the money quote, (literally speaking):

“There’s plenty of research showing that if you burn at the right time, your cattle could gain as much as 30 pounds per head in weight,” McClure said. “Historically, in Riley County, that ‘right time’ is between April 15 and May 1.”

With live cattle recently priced at $86 per hundredweight, a shipment of 1,000 cattle could gain a $25,000 price advantage from the grass being burned at the “right time.” That’s awfully hard to walk away from.

Unfortunately, there are other impacts. The tremendous amount of acreage being burned at more or less the same time creates air quality problems in Kansas City (which has enough all on its own), and harms prairie-chicken populations as well as other birds in the Flint Hills.

It’s important to keep in mind that conservation problems rarely have simple causes, simple effects, or simple solutions.

+ Dan @ 09:59am

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