Fire professionals from all over the U.S. will call The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve
home as they learn and burn at the eighth annual fire training exchange from March 18th through April 2nd.
The exchange was designed to meet the training needs of fire practitioners – those who serve state and
federal conservation agencies and fire departments, as well as private sector nonprofits, businesses, and
landowners. It is also a way to bring much-needed fire to land that will benefit from it.
“We know this landscape is a fire-adapted one, and we’ve seen the good results of regular controlled
burns for wildlife and for grazing on the Preserve,” said Rich Walters, Director of Stewardship for The
Nature Conservancy. “We’ve also seen what happens when too much fuel builds up. Recent
wildfires are a stark reminder of that. Having the personnel to get fire on the ground safely is essential.
It’s a great two-way street of teaching and learning.” Weather conditions permitting, participants hope
to burn 3,500 acres.
Twenty-eight firefighters from California, Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah and British
Columbia will assemble in Nebraska. “The Niobrara Valley Preserve has been an important base from
which exchange programs have grown,” said Walters. “Folks who have met and trained in Nebraska
have duplicated the event in South Africa and Spain.”
Large numbers of workers means a high level of vigilance in planning. Safety is paramount to the
exchange’s leaders, who work under national standards. “We choose the safest time of year to hold this
training. We anchor into previously burned areas, spend months working on burn plans, and
relentlessly monitor weather reports. Local fire departments are involved in the permitting process,”
said Walters.
Multiple private and public partners assemble to contribute resources for the exchange. They include:
the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange, the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, Nebraska
Environmental Trust, the Nebraska Forest Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.