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When it comes to restoring rangeland habitats, there is no replacement for "prescribed fire," according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) ecologists.
Using fire with a stated objective—a strategy known as prescribed fire—is widely recognized as an effective way to remove standing, dead vegetation on rangelands. But fear of fire has left some to wonder if mowing or close grazing confers the same benefits.
Lance - Vermeire - Ecologist - ARS - Fort
Lance Vermeire, an ecologist at the ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, Montana, compared the benefits of mowing rangelands with setting them on fire to rid them of unwanted debris and reset their ecological balance. He found in a recent study that fire is better than mowing because it restores soil health and promotes growth of grass that is more nutritious for grazing cattle.
"The results show that mowing is not the same as fire and cannot replace it. Fire is unique," he says.
Wildfires - Part - Cycle - Growth - Regeneration
Wildfires are a part of the natural cycle of growth and regeneration in many Western habitats and although all fire effects are not always positive, rangeland managers have used fire to control invasive weeds, enhance forage quality, increase plant diversity and maintain wildlife habitats. The nation's rangelands are owned and managed by a patchwork of government agencies and private interests and some managers are reluctant to use fire, opting instead to mow or graze areas to get rid of unwanted plants, open habitats to sunlight and restore native grasses.
"If a rangeland needs to be revitalized, the question often being asked is, 'what tools will best accomplish that?'" Vermeire says.
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