US Geological Survey


Date of this Version




U.S. government work


Burning and grazing are natural processes in native prairies that also serve as important tools in grassland management to conserve plant diversity, to limit encroachment of woody and invasive plants, and to maintain or improve prairies. Native prairies managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the Prairie Pothole Region of the northern Great Plains have been extensively invaded by nonnative, cool-season species of grasses. These invasions were believed to reflect a common management history of long-term rest and little or no defoliation by natural processes (burning and grazing). To address the challenges associated with these invasive species, the FWS embraced a collaborative approach in 2008, in partnership with U.S. Geological Survey, to restore native prairies on lands managed by FWS. This approach is known as the Native Prairie Adaptive Management (NPAM) initiative and was based on the application of an adaptive decision-support framework to assist managers in selecting management actions despite uncertainty and in maximizing learning from management outcomes. The primary objective of this approach was to increase the composition of native grasses and forbs on native, unbroken sod while minimizing costs. The alternative management actions that were used to meet this objective include grazing, burning, burning and grazing, and rest (no action)