Grasslands of the Canadian Prairie provinces and U.S. Plains states have a history of management by Indigenous peoples. One of primary management tools used by Indigenous peoples is cultural burning. Cultural burning can promote the growth of economically useful plant species, improve fodder for game species, and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires (Roos et al. 2018).
The poor understanding Indigenous land management methods and grassland ecologies by settler governments and land managers led to a long period where fire was not widely used as a grassland management tool (1880s to 1980s) (Stubbendieck, Volesky, and Ortmann n.d.). In the 1980s, increasing autonomy won by Indigenous groups in Canada and the U.S. and an increasing acceptance of fire as a land management tool by government agencies led to an increase in the use of cultural and prescribed burning.
Private agricultural lands are typically not managed using prescribed burning. The lack of prescribed burning on private agricultural lands has significant implications for livestock fodder quality, invasive weed control, the encroachment of woody vegetation, flora and fauna biodiversity, and grassland regeneration (Stubbendieck, Volesky, and Ortmann n.d.). However, there are some significant barriers to implementing prescribed burning plans on private land. These include costs related to insurance and fire crew deployment along with a lack of accessible prescribed burning expertise.
Most provinces and states in the Canadian Prairies and U.S. Plains states have well-defined rules and regulations for prescribed burning. Some jurisdictions may also provide technical and financial support for agricultural landowners and managers. Below are some prescribed burn resources provided by non-profit and government agencies:
North Dakota Prescribed Fire Cooperative
Mid-Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association