Balancing Earth, Air, and Fire In the Kansas Flint Hills


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For more: Native Americans placed great value on the four elements of life, earth, water, air and fire. They recognized, as we do today, that fire is the most powerful land management tool. The 4.8 million acre Flint Hills region of Kansas is the largest remaining expanse of tallgrass prairie in North America. Prescribed fire is routinely practiced in the region to enhance livestock forage quality, control invasive species, provide grassland wildlife habitat and improve plant vigor. But where there is fire, there is smoke, and there are public health concerns when excessive smoke is in the atmosphere. Ground level ozone can have serious public health consequences and major cities adjacent to the Flint Hills, have recorded excessive ozone levels resulting from Flint Hills prescribed fire. A collaborative effort including the Kansas Dept of Health & Environment, EPA, K-State Research & Extension, Kansas Livestock Association and other groups completed the Flint Hills smoke management plan in December, 2010, with the objective of reducing health concerns from prescribed fire, while retaining it as a land management tool. The plan established a website of "best smoke management practices" and a comprehensive education and outreach effort for land managers was implemented, involving prescribed fire schools, news articles and radio airplay. Results of the plan are positive, indicating that Kansas has responded to the smoke issue appropriately and will retain prescribed fire as a management practice that maintains both the tallgrass prairie of the hills, and the air quality of adjacent metro areas. The inter-relationships of earth, water, air and fire are continual, each impacting the other. The Kansas Flint Hills now has a plan to ensure harmony of these essential elements of life.

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  • Ground level ozone is identical to upper atmosphere ozone Caused by chemical reaction of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) Reaction goes both ways. Reaction goes both ways. Concentrations higher when conditions are hot, sunny with light winds Only difference in Kansas is that we do not have mountains
  • Beijing olympics will be a test-----ozone readings four to five times standard
  • EPA required to conduct 5- year reviews of the NAAQS---do it every ten years or so
  • Balancing Earth, Air, and Fire In the Kansas Flint Hills

    1. 1. Balancing:EarthAir andFIREin the KansasFlint HillsJeff DavidsonKansas State Univ.Watershed
    2. 2. Tallgrass Prairie is Fire-Derived – FireMaintained
    3. 3. Rx Fire is practicedIn the Spring – AprilJust as the 1stgreen begins toshow
    4. 4. 4.8 Million acres in Flint HillsAbout 35% Burns Annually
    5. 5. Prescribed Burning Improves:Livestock performanceGrazing distributionControl of brush species
    6. 6. 10 to 15 % Higher Gain on Cattlegrazing Burned Pastures
    7. 7. Burning Issues of TodaySMOKE & Air Quality
    8. 8. Health Effects of Ozone• Irritation of the respiratory system• Aggravation of asthma and allergies• Permanent lung damage after repeatedexposure• Children, elderly, and people with existinghealth conditions affected more
    9. 9. Ozone Standard History• 1971 - EPA set 1-hour standard at 0.120 ppm• 1997 - EPA set 8-hour standard at 0.085 ppm• 2008 - EPA lowered 8-hour standard– Primary standard set at 0.075 ppm– Secondary standard same as primary• 2009 – New standard withdrawn
    10. 10. Kansas Flint HillsSmoke Management Plan
    11. 11.
    12. 12. Fire --the most powerful landmanagement tool
    13. 13. Summary ThoughtsEPA, KDHE, cities all willing to work with Agto find solutions. By working together,regulation can be avoided.
    14. 14. Summary Thoughts► Need to avoid urban vs. rural debate► Recognize benefits of both strong urbanindustrial sector and a strong agriculture
    15. 15. Summary Thoughts• Ecological benefits of burning areextremely important to maintain andpreserve the Flint Hills.
    16. 16. Jeff DavidsonKansas State UniversityEureka,
    17. 17. Summary Thoughts• EPA willing to work with the ag industry tofind solutions to smoke issue rather thanforce regulations.• EPA, KDHE, major cities all willing to workwith ag to find solutions.
    18. 18. Summary Thoughts• Need to avoid urban versus rural debate.• We recognize the benefits of a strongurban industrial sector and a strongagriculture in Kansas
    19. 19. Fire dependent ecosystemsLong leaf pine grasslandsSerpentine barrensPonderosa Pine standsTALLGRASS PRAIRIESChaparralOak savannahsMixed pine of Sierra Nevadas