Prescribed fire is an important management tool for rangelands and forests in North America and globally. However, the application of prescribed fire is a complex endeavor that involves significant planning, partnerships, and risk. Recent evidence suggests that not enough prescribed fire is being applied to reduce wildfires, in part, because risk and bureaucracy continue to hinder application. While common in the eastern and central Great Plains, prescribed fire is less common in the western United States. Therefore, we summarized 11 prescribed fire projects in Wyoming, USA (or immediately adjacent to in one case) across five U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Ecoregions (High Plains, Northwestern Great Plains, Wyoming Basin, Southern Rockies, and Middle Rockies)—a state where the prairies converge with the western mountains. Fires were conducted from 2014 to 2022 and ranged in size from <1 acre to 3,000 acres (a total of 8,795 acres). Fires occurred on a variety of land ownerships including private ranch, university, state trust, Army, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Crew sizes ranged from 1 to 40 people. Approximately half of the burns were in the spring, a third were in the fall, and two were in the winter; no summer burns were reported. Duration of planning ranged from a few months to 5 years. Drip torches were the most common ignition device used; however, we noted the use of propane torches, terratorches, helitorches, and drones for lighting fires. Weather prescriptions varied across fires with some choosing low humidity to make up for low fuel loads and others choosing moderate humidity to minimize risk. A wide variety of plant communities, purposes, and applications were noted. Weather prescriptions particularly in the spring were consistently challenging and the importance of partnerships with neighbors and other agencies for planning and implementation was noted frequently. Across these unique prescribed fire case studies, we have noted commonalities that can communicate important practicalities of applying fire across complex land types and jurisdictions. Sharing such information is important in a state with the least population density in the country to enhance the professional application of prescribed fire across a diversity of situations.
Prescribed Fire Case Studies From Wyoming, USA: Diverse Applications and Common Themes at the Great Plains-Rocky Mountains Interface
John Derek Scasta, Claire Visconti, Hannah Fraley, Tanner Hoffman, Cortney Borer, Gwendalyn Cameron, Kailee Chambers, Olivia Chase, Brodie Daugherty, Gary Gassaway, Lydia Cleve, Xavier Michael-Young, Katelyn Mitchem, John Nelson, Tyler Shreve, Josiah Toelle, Charles Wangnild, Clay Wells, Gabriel Wiley; Prescribed Fire Case Studies From Wyoming, USA: Diverse Applications and Common Themes at the Great Plains-Rocky Mountains Interface. Case Studies in the Environment 23 January 2023; 7 (1): 2003840. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2023.2003840
Download citation file: