Restoring Grasslands With Prescribed Fire

Promote species diversity, defend your grasslands, and burn with confidence.

Brigham Sanctuary Prescribed Fire Workshop Photo: Amanda Booher/Audubon Great Plains

Good for the herd, good for the bird.

A controlled burn, prescribed fire is intentionally set for habitat management purposes. Prescribed fire offers benefits to both people and wildlife. When done properly, prescribed fire is a safe and effective tool to control invasive species, improve species diversity, and improve soil health. Prescribed fire enhances the native plant vegetation by removing dead plant litter, therefore creating space for new plant growth. As a historic way to protect the prairie, prescribed fires help maintain grasslands for wildlife.

Grassland birds rely on prairies for their survival and well-being due to the unique characteristics of these ecosystems. Prairies provide crucial nesting and foraging habitats for these birds, offering abundant grasses and wildflowers that support insect populations, which are a vital food source for many species. The open, expansive nature of prairies also allows for effective predator detection and provides ample space for courtship displays and territorial behaviors among grassland bird populations.


According to NDSU Extension, fires increase the production and composition of warm-season native grasses with little impact to cool-season grasses, therefore helping bolster forage volume and improving seasonal availability for livestock and wildlife. 


Grasslands historically evolved by fire. Research done by the USDA indicates that fire helps maintain diversity of plant species, recycles nutrients back in the soil, mitigates the frequency and intensity of unplanned wildfires, and combats woody encroachment - ensuring the property remains a grassland. 


According to the Nature Conservancy weather parameters, fuel conditions, safety procedures, fire breaks, and equipment needed are all priorities when writing a burn plan.

Prescribed Fire Resources

Reintroduction of fire through prescribed burning may be one of the best ways to restore native grasslands but perceptions of liability and risk limit its use. Having a better understanding of prescribed burning rules, regulations and liability is an important step in helping land managers perform a prescribed fire when needed to meet their land management needs.

North Dakota Prescribed Burning Rules and Regulations
South Dakota Prescribed Burning Rules and Regulations
Example of Burn Plan

Working Lands Staff and Resources
Working Lands

Working Lands Staff and Resources

Learn more about our reach and who to contact for various programs.

Read more

Prairie Management Toolbox Program
Working Lands

Prairie Management Toolbox

We partner with private landowners to invest in sustainable land management, providing financial and technical support for grazing infrastructure for private landowners.

Read more

North Dakota Prescribed Fire Cooperative
Prescribed Fire

ND Prescribed Fire Cooperative

The NDPFC strives to facilitate a positive North Dakota landowner awareness of prescribed fire as a management tool.

Read more

How you can help, right now