Eastern red cedar trees have invaded as much as 30 percent of the grassland along the Missouri River in southern South Dakota, and are slowly invading grasslands to the north. This is not unique to the Missouri and we are seeing similar encroachment in other river valleys in South Dakota, including the James River. Fire is an ecological process and recognized control method, but many ranchers are hesitant to use it because of the fear of a runaway fire. As a result, the conversion of grassland to forest is equal in scale to the loss of grassland to row cropping.
In this these videos, we visit with Rod Voss (NRCS), Sean Kelly (SDSU) and Ranchers Rich Grim (Gregory Co., SD) and Doug Feltman (Brule Co., SD) to talk about the eastern red cedar and the use of fire to restore rangeland. In this video we summarize the spread of the tree in the last 40-50 years and what it has cost us in terms of grazing, we talk about the role of fire in natural prairie systems, fear versus respect of fire, creating a burn plan, the Mid Missouri River prescribed Burn Association (MMRPBA) - the only one
of its kind in South Dakota, and its role in helping producers prepare and execute burn plan, how to prepare the land for a fire including mechanical treatments, ensuring a good fuel load, in small situations where trees are small or large. Finally, we discuss fire return interval as it relates to the eastern red cedar and why it is important to begin addressing this problem now.