Wisconsin Fire Needs Assessment Published

What are the priority areas for prescribed fire in Wisconsin? The Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium partnered with the SILVIS Lab at UW-Madison and the Lake States fire Science Consortium to conduct a Fire Needs Assessment (FNA) for Wisconsin. This project used LANDFIRE vegetation data ( to identify where fire-dependent vegetation is located and the fire return interval of community types.

The assessment found that the highest priorities for management with prescribed fire occurred in the Central Sand Plains and Sand Hills, Northwest and Northeast Sands, and along the lower Wisconsin River. These areas reflect where high concentrations of rare ecosystems with frequent fire return intervals occur and there may be less challenges associated with applying prescribed fire in the Wildland Urban Interface.

To learn more:
1) View or download a two page PDF of the final report.
2) Email  corresponding author Tracy Hmielowski.
3) Access the article in Ecological Applications via:

Literature cited:  Hmielowski, T. L., Carter, S. K., Spaul, H., Helmers, D., Radeloff, V. C., & Zedler, P. (2016). Prioritizing land management efforts at a landscape scale: a case study using prescribed fire in Wisconsin. Ecological Applications, 26(4), 1018-1029. 


Open call for observations of fire effects on invasive species

To accelerate the sharing of knowledge and information about fire effects on invasive species in the Midwest - bad as well as good - we've partnered with the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN) to add practitioners' observations to the online Invasive Plant Control Database.

Please consider taking some time over the dormant season to share your observations.

We've added a short form to our website that asks for a few sentences about the habitat type, treatment, and effectiveness. (

After you fill out and submit the form, we will send you a confirmation email and ask to schedule a time for a follow up phone call. 

During the follow up phone call, we will collect additional information about the treatments (burning and other integrated management) and effectiveness. Notes from the discussion will be turned into a brief description and sent back to the land manager for review.


Following approval, the observations will be uploaded to the database. New additions to the database will be advertised through the consortium, MIPN, and relevant state or local invasive plant list serves and newsletters.


Download the flyer


Ecological Site Description Developed for Wet Prairies In Iowa, Minnesota

The NRCS has completed an Ecological Site Description for Loamy Wet Prairies in the Central Iowa and Minnesota Till Prairies Major Land Resource Area (MLRA), covering parts of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) are reports that provide detailed information about a particular kind of land based on various soil and ecological factors - a distinctive Ecological Site. ESDs provide land managers the information needed for evaluating land units based on the potential to respond to different management activities or disturbance processes. The publications synthesize information and data gathered from literature reviews and intensive field investigation at reference sites around the region


The lead authors are Kyle Steele, Ecological Site Specialist, United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), Albert Lea, MN; and Clayton Johnson, Soil Survey Office Leader, USDA-NRCS, Albert Lea, MN.

To view or download the ESD, click on the link below:

Loamy Wet Prairies ESD (size: 2 MB) 


Webinar - Past Fire and Present-day Mesophication: Implications for Oak Ecosystem Restoration

Thanks to our presenter Dr. Gregory Nowacki for a great discussion of oak ecology and mesophication. 

This webinar is now archived, and can be viewed via our co-sponsor, the Lake States Fire Science Consortium.

To visit their website and view the archived webinar through the Adobe Connect platform, please click on the following link or copy and paste into your browser:

Past fire and present-day mesophication: Implications for oak ecosystem restoration

Gregory Nowacki, USFS Regional Ecologist

Oak is a “keystone species” within the Eastern Deciduous Forest and its long-term success, in terms of abundance and wide distribution, has been explicitly linked to disturbance, specifically fire.  Oak is an opportunistic species that readily takes advantage of forest disturbance by quickly colonizing and exploiting openings.  The disturbance regime that historically supported oak (facilitated greatly by Native American burning) changed upon European arrival.  Although early forest exploitation initially buoyed oak dominance through cutting and burning, near-universal fire suppression that followed has had negative effects.  Under current high densities, oak performs poorly and is being replaced by shade-tolerant, fire-sensitive species such as sugar and red maple, basswood, and beech.  As shade-tolerant competitors become entrenched, opportunities for oak regeneration rapidly degrade with increasing shade and cool and moist understory/fuel bed conditions that greatly retard fire—a positive feedback mechanism coined “mesophication.” A combination of thinning and burning is recommended to restore imperiled oak ecosystems.


Resources from Neighboring Regions

UPDATED 10/5/2015


Great Plains Fire Science Exchange

Oct. 6 - What's going on in glade soil: effects of edge and fire on mycorrhizae

North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange

Oct. 14 - Fire and the Northern Long-Eared Bat


Training - Lake States Fire Science Consortium

January 8-10 and 15-17, 2016 @ Grand Valley State University, MI - S-290/S-133 course 

Registration available October-November 2015.



"Starved for fire, Wisconsin's pine barrens disappear"

"We're talking about a dramatic change... It's probably better to say these sites used to be pine barrens. These sites are so similar with the closed-canopy pine forests around them that these pine barrens may be gone." - lead author Daijing Li

Click to read more ...


Driftless Area Bluff Prairies - New Ecological Site Descriptions Released

The first NRCS Ecological Site Descriptions completed for the Driftless Area are now available online.

Click to read more ...


Wisconsin Fire Needs Assessment

What are the priority areas for prescribed fire in Wisconsin?

The Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna and Lake States Fire Science Consortia, in collaboration with researchers in the SILVIS lab at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, have completed an initial Fire Needs Assessment (FNA) for the state of Wisconsin. The goal of this project was to identify priority areas for management with prescribed fire, with a focus on fire dependent ecosystems with fire return intervals of less than 50 years. Using vegetation data from LANDFIRE, the State Wildlife Action Plan, Wildland Urban Interface data, and input from numerous stakeholder groups, a cost benefit analysis was conducted. This cost benefit analysis used the spatial data to identify where the ecological benefits of using prescribed fire are likely to be greatest when accounting for the effort and challenges of conducting prescribed burns. 

Figure 1. Priority Management Areas by Subwatershed Unit

The initial results show high priority areas in central and northwest Wisconsin, when summarized by subwatershed spatial units (Figure 1). There are also priority areas in the northeast and southern portion of the state, reflecting the occurrence of rare community types such as tallgrass prairie and oak barrens. The Consortia hope to work with fire managers across the state to use this assessment as both a statewide planning tool and a starting point for fine scale analyses of fire needs.

You can view or download a two-page PDF version of the FNA summary results.

If interested in learning more about the project, contact TPOS Fire Information Specialist Tracy Hmielowski.



Fire Ecology Synthesis for Great Lakes region prairie and savanna

This review summarizes the findings of over 250 studies from the region to describe fire effects on vegetation, wildlife, and nutrient cycles. The final version is now online.

Click to read more ...


LANDFIRE Webinar Series

This post is now archived. LANDFIRE and Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) consortia members developed a series of webinars that are designed to help land managers and others understand and use data resources to assist them when making decisions regarding large landscape projects.

Click to read more ...