Fire. It can be a friend, or it can be a foe. Out in the prairies of Nebraska, fire was once a natural tool to regenerate the land. In an unmanaged forest, it can be detrimental by starting on the forest floor and then going up ladder fuels such as eastern red cedar to the canopy of the hardwood trees. Once a fire is in the canopy, there is little that can be done to control the flames.
In 2012, fires ripped through the Niobrara Valley and the volume of fuels that were within the natural forest did not make fighting these fires any easier. In fact, with the fuels within the hardwood and Ponderosa pine stands, the fire accelerated and burned that much hotter. We learned valuable lessons that year, and one of those lessons was that we need to manage our forests in Nebraska.