- Planet Possible
The Great Plains prairie needs fire to survive. These ranchers are bringing it back.
Regular fires are essential for protecting what remains of the grasslands from a stealthy invader: trees.
Bill Sproul lights his ranch on fire every April. So do most of his neighbors in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas, home to the largest remnant of tallgrass prairie in the United States. People who live in that ocean of swaying green view fire as a boon rather than a burden.
“Fire is what keeps the prairie a prairie,” says Sproul, 68. “If you take out fire, it changes everything.”
After the terrible wildfire seasons in the western United States over the past several years, there has been a renewed interest in prescribed, low-intensity burning as a way of preserving western forests from catastrophic wildfire. But ranchers in the Flint Hills have long understood that regular fires are essential for protecting