Last updated: April 1, 2020
- 3 minutes, 28 seconds
Learn how Homestead manages the oldest restored tallgrass prairie in the National Park Service with a very important tool, fire.
Why Prescribed Fire?
Prior to Euro-American settlement, fires swept through the tallgrass prairie every 5-10 years. In the absence of fire, prairie plants lose their competitive advantage over woody and exotic plants. The woody and exotic species then take over, shading out the native species. In 1970, park staff began using prescribed fires to manage the prairie.
The prairie is divided into six management units and burned on a seven-year cycle. Every year, two units are randomly chosen for treatment, with the stipulation that once a unit has been burned twice in the seven-year period, it is removed from consideration for the duration of that period. Seasonality of fires is also randomized. The seventh year is a "rest year." The goals of the fire management program are control of exotic species such as smooth brome, management of shrub species to no more than 15% of the prairie by area, and removal of plant debris that, if left in place, create the potential for a large, devastating fire.
NPS Fire and Aviation Management Program