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Establishment of Fire Regimes to Maintain Forest, Range, and Wildife Resources in Oklahoma

Investigators
Weir, John R; Engle, David M; Elmore, R Dwayne; Bidwell, Terrence G; Allen, Kevin P
Institutions
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Start date
2011
End date
2016
Objective

Our primary goals are to ensure healthy ecosystems to enhance resource management on working landscapes. Specifically, we intend to carry out Extension programs aimed at addressing changes in fire regimes and the subsequent increase in eastern redcedar. This situation has led to declining rangeland and wildlife health and changes in wildlife abundance. Further working lands are in decline due to loss of productivity. At the end of the project we wish to see fewer acres of rangeland and forest that have been degraded due to eastern redcedar, an increase in forage and timber potential on rangelands and forests, improving populations of target wildlife species, reduced wildlife risks to communities, higher water quality and quantity, and better integration of natural resource partners to achieve common goals. Our work will most directly address the cross-cutting issues of ecosystem services, fish and wildlife resources, forest and rangeland food safety and security, and invasive species. To carry this out or goals, we have established the following objectives.

1) Develop and implement educational programs on the role of prescribed fire for rangeland, forest, and wildlife health carried out through Cooperative Extension, the Oklahoma Prescribed Fire Council, and other outlets as necessary.

2) Address barriers identified in our previous RREA project that impede implementation of Goal 1. These barriers are lack of training, lack of equipment, lack of labor, and liability uncertainty.

3) Measure the impact of our Extension programming to the RREA Issues of: invasive species, forest stewardship and health, rangeland stewardship and health, and forest and rangeland wildlife and fisheries resources and report impacts to NIFA.

Outputs for this work will include various activities, events, and products. Activities that will be utilized include: analysis of survey results, collection of stakeholder input, and facilitation of natural resource agencies and landowners. We will use a variety of events to disseminate information. Field days, In-Services, landowner workshops, prescribed fire trainings, field demonstration sites will all be utilized. Products such as newsletters, guides, fact sheets, circulars, videos, manuals, and new websites will be created as needed during the project. Specific outputs planned include a fire effects video, a prescribed fire community of practice in eXtension, NRCS fire courses, and formation of new prescribed fire cooperatives.

More information

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY:
Situation Large-scale fire suppression and fragmentation of Oklahoma and the Southern Great Plains has led significant changes in plant communities, wildlife populations, agricultural productivity, and wildfire risks. Specifically, eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) has become a dominant component of many habitats throughout Oklahoma, substantially increasing the potential of fire and personal property damaged by wildfires. The invasion by these plants adds to the list of forces at work (e.g. expansion of agricultural fields, development, urban sprawl) in the continued degradation and fragmentation of the Great Plains grasslands, shrublands, and forests. Additionally, the spread of eastern redcedar increases the likelihood of further declines of at-risk wildlife species. Also, forage production and thus agriculture potential has been greatly diminished in the Southern Great Plains due to redcedar encroachment. Past efforts to educate Oklahomans on land management practices (e.g. prescribed fire) that would limit the effect eastern redcedar has on native plant succession, forage production, increased fire threats, and wildlife populations has made some progress in improving forest, range, and wildlife resources. However, significant work yet remains. Purpose Using results from previous research and Extension outcomes, we have modified our approach to carrying out the Land-Grant mission and the scale of our efforts. We will direct educational programs towards two broad goals: 1) ensuring healthy ecosystems and 2) enhancing resource management on working forests and rangelands. Specifically, we will focus on the issues of invasive species (primarily eastern redcedar), forest stewardship and health, rangeland stewardship and health, and forest and rangeland wildlife and fisheries resources. Our Extension efforts will achieve the following outcomes. We will increase knowledge such that landowners understand the impacts of fire suppression and management tradeoffs. We will also increase stakeholder knowledge regarding the sustainability of rangeland and forest systems and the wildlife resources dependent upon them. Actions that we anticipate from this project include the adoption of new land management paradigms; policy that encourages resiliency in natural resources; and the increased use of fire and other methods to maintain range, forest, and wildlife resources. If these actions are carried out, the following conditions will be achieved: more sustainable rangeland and forests, higher land productivity, fewer declining wildlife species, and decreasing catastrophic wildfires.

APPROACH:
Efforts For the previous reporting period, we used questionnaires to assess perceptions of Oklahoma residents to prescribed fire and eastern redcedar encroachment to help guide our Extension program. We found high support for prescribed fire with 72% of agricultural respondents and 74% of general respondents believing it was necessary to manage the land. Respondents also viewed the increase of eastern redcedar as a threat to urban areas. When asked what specific concerns respondents had regarding prescribed fire, both groups indicated damage to private property, risk to human safety, and soil erosion as most important. Only 5% of the agricultural respondents were aware of prescribed fire associations. These results indicate high support of prescribed fire and recognition that eastern red cedar encroachment is a concern. Concerns regarding prescribed fire indicate that more effort is needed to address liability issues within the state. As prescribed fire associations have been identified by the Oklahoma Prescribed Fire Council as a top priority, we will continue to create and support these associations by facilitating their formation, providing trainings and outreach resources, and providing supplies and equipment when needed. We will create a fire effects video and update our fire fact sheets and circulars and distribute these documents to clientele. As liability was identified as the primary constraint to use of fire, we will continue to work on policy issues through the Oklahoma Prescribed Fire Council with the state Legislature, USDA, and state wildlife agencies. Additionally, landowners are largely reliant on USDA-NRCS for technical assistance on burn plans. Thus, we will focus intensive, multi-day fire trainings toward NRCS to ensure that their staff is adequately trained to deliver the latest science-based fire ecology and application to clientele to improve range, forest, and wildlife resources while managing invasive plants such as eastern redcedar. Finally, we will create a Community of Practice within eXtension on prescribed fire that will serve the nation as the source of information on fire as a land management tool and an ecological process. We will also support broad-scale outreach such as the Wildlife Expo and natural resource youth education programs such as WHEP. Evaluation In order to evaluate our success, we will require all prescribed fire associations to report to Extension members trained, fires conducted, and acres treated to capture change in condition. Policy changes will be documented from statistics reported from our USDA and various state partners (e.g. acreage of CRP impacted). We will use web monitoring software to report number of hits, downloads, and time spent on various pages. Pre and post surveys will be used for fire trainings to agencies and fire associations to test knowledge. We have created an online survey system for feedback on our fact sheets that will indicate how many acres were impacted by various Extension documents. We will also record the number of documents disseminated. Acreage impacts from WMAs will be obtained from appropriate state agencies to determine actions.

PROGRESS: 2012/10 TO 2013/09
Target Audience: Between 10/01/12 to 09/30/13 the RREA OKLN-1012 project targeted the following audiences: youth, landowners, land managers, urban residents, and state and federal natural resource professionals. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Opportunities for professional development were provided to Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma Master Gardeners, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Quail Forever, The Wildlife Society, and the Society for Range Management. We provided training at 2 prescribed fire field days, 2 NRCS prescribed fire workshops, 1 webinar through the prescribed fire CoP in eXtension, a feral hog workshop, and a Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow workshop. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? During the period between 10/01/12 to 09/30/13 the RREA OKLN-1012 project collaborated with the following groups: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Quail Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Division of Forestry, Oklahoma Audubon Council, The Nature Conservancy, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, The Wildlife Society, Society for Range Management, The Noble Foundation, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, US Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund, Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, Future Farmers of America, Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow, the Max MacGraw Foundation, Field & Stream, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and eXtension. We produced a new video entitled Wildlife Damage Management and distrusted it to all Oklahoma Cooperative Extension offices. RREA funds were used to reproduce and distribute the Effects of Fire Video to over 20 states. We produced 2 new fact sheets during the project period (Northern Bobwhite Habitat Requirements and Evaluation Guide and A Practical Guide to Food Plots in the Southern Great Plains). We additionally produced 500 copies of A Practical Guide to Food Plots in the Southern Great Plains; 1,000 copies each of Smoke Management, Burning in the Growing Season, Patch Burning, and Oklahoma�s Native Vegetation Types; and 2,000 copies of Prescribed Burning Handbook for distribution. 58 FAQs and 59 articles have been created for the new Prescribed Fire CoP for eXtension. Our NREM newsletter was distributed to over 700 participants (and further distributed to other lists).Our television programs resulted in 13 segments for SUNUP on Oklahoma public television that reaches an estimated 18,000 people weekly and an additional 5 segments on Oklahoma Gardening which reaches an estimated 175,000. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? We will continue to develop and maket our prescribed fire CoP in eXtension. The native prairie demonstartion area will be completed. Additional fact sheets related to invasive plants and wildliffe management will be created. We will distribute infomation at the annual Wildlife Expo. The Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program will be expanded.

PROGRESS: 2011/10/01 TO 2012/09/30
OUTPUTS: During the period between 10/01/11 to 09/30/12 the RREA OKLN-1012 project resulted in the following outputs. Both the Oklahoma state and the National 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program (WHEP) contest were supported by RREA. Additionally, WHEP trainings were conducted in Tennessee and Oregon and a new WHEP program was initiated in Oregon. Extension staff continued to work with the Oklahoma Prescribed Fire Council to implement the use of prescribed fire in Oklahoma and to create a state-wide insurance program. Extension material was distributed at the 2012 Wildlife Expo. Support from RREA allowed for a biannual newsletter to be produced covering various topics in natural resources for distribution to various constituents including: alumni, landowners, professionals, and students. We used RREA to support the 3rd annual Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival and expand the festival to new areas of the state. We provided content for a monthly television segment for public television on various natural resource topics. We were able to reproduce the Effects of Fire Video and distribute copies across the region. We provided partial salary support for an Extension employee to continue to develop a Community of Practice on Prescribed Fire for eXtension. We began marketing the Prairie Project that will be used in primary and secondary education across the region. A new video series was produced on drought impacts to natural resources. Education opportunities were provided at multiple national or regional events including: Society for Range Management, National WHEP Contest, and the Iowa state chapter of The Wildlife Society. Support also enabled Extension staff to assist the Oklahoma in producing a lesser prairie-chicken management plant and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in creating a range-wide plan for the lesser prairie-chicken. PARTICIPANTS: During the period between 10/01/11 to 09/30/12 the RREA OKLN-1012 project collaborated with the following groups: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Division of Forestry, Oklahoma Wildlife and Prairie Heritage Alliance, Oklahoma Audubon Council, The Nature Conservancy, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, Tall Timbers Research Station, The Wildlife Society, Society for Range Management, Quail Forever, The Noble Foundation, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Iowa Chapter of The Wildlife Society, Oregon Cooperative Extension Service, Tennessee Cooperative Extension Service, Texas Cooperative Extension Service, eXtension, and the Sutton Avian Research Center. Opportunities for professional development were provided to Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oregon Cooperative Extension Service, Tennessee Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa state chapter of The Wildlife Society, Oklahoma Master Gardeners, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever, U.S. Forest Service, Americorps, The Wildlife Society, and the Society for Range Management. TARGET AUDIENCES: Between 10/01/11 to 09/30/12 the RREA OKLN-1012 project targeted the following audiences: youth, landowners, land managers, urban residents, and state and federal natural resource professionals. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: A new RREA five year project was created during this period (OKLN-1012). A final report was submitted for OKLN-1002.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
OKLN-1012
Accession number
228218
Categories
Education and Training
Commodities
Meat, Poultry, Game