Mechanically removing trees from wildlife lands can be very costly, requiring heavy equipment and gallons of chemicals. The best management for invasive plants is prevention. The best way to keep trees out of the prairie is fire.
Some people see fire as removing nesting cover, especially for gamebirds. That’s true for the year of the fire. However, with management for prairie wildlife, it’s often about short term losses versus long-term gains. The removal of nesting cover, and trees, with fire in one year will greatly increase the quality of the nesting habitat over the next several years.
Lack of fire across Minnesota’s grasslands is hurting wildlife more than the periodic prescribed fires harm them. Fire, spring or fall, will always benefit prairie wildlife in the long term.
Greg Hoch is a prairie habitat evaluation ecologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stationed at the Farmland Wildlife Research Unit in Madelia.