N.D. – The Game and Fish Department manages over 220 wildlife management areas across the state.
Those south of Bismarck and Mandan are usually under a burn ban in the spring and this year is no different.
A combination of dry conditions and increased spring outdoor activity along the Missouri River south of Bismarck-Mandan has led to a burn ban at Oahe Wildlife Management Area and surrounding public lands.
“It’s pretty busy down here throughout the spring and cooler temperatures, people are shore fishing, they want a fire, stay warm and, so, it makes sense that there’s a demand for that open fire. But the problem is when people leave those fires unattended after they’re done fishing, maybe the fire danger wasn’t even that high. But the next day might be strong winds and really dry and that’s where we had issues and we’ve had wildfires,” said NDGF wildfire resource management Bill Haase.
Haase says wildlife management areas are managed for public use and wildlife habitat.
“So as you can see behind us, we have tall grass and it’s used for nesting habitat and we have to manage it. We have haying and grazing rotations on our wildlife management areas to make sure we have the best habitat available. So the tallest, most diverse grass stands so that we can produce, abundant amount of wildlife, including pheasants,” said Haase.
Before green-up, tall nesting and fawning habitat along with the heavily wooded areas, are potential fuels for a wildfire.
“We’ve had some fires here on Oahe, one was started from a campfire. And actually, it was in the spring we had a restriction where campfires and open burning wasn’t allowed. However, somebody still did that in a parking lot and they left it unattended, when they left and it got windy and conditions got where the fire danger is really high and so that fire ended up spreading and turning into really big fire,” said Haase.
Haase said the reality is that most of the state is dry and urges caution even if there isn’t a burn ban in place on wildlife management areas.
“I think if everybody follows the guidelines and restrictions it’s going to help. Wildfires are a natural thing that will happen on the landscape, but we want to do our best to limit them as much as possible. If people just use commonsense, avoid bad situations where the fire danger is high, we could eliminate 90 plus percent of these wildfires,” said Haase.
It’s always a good idea to check to see if your county has a burn ban in place before having an open fire.