John Holman

John Holman

Murray County Extension Educator Ag/4-H Youth Development

This past Saturday morning, I had the unusual opportunity of visiting the Oklahoma Bison Association’s annual production sale, which was held at the Freeman Livestock Sale Barn here in Sulphur. While I am not planning to get in the business, the experience did cause me to ponder the history of these fascinating native herbivores, and the eons of time they have been grazing the plains of North America. The associative effects of their grazing combined with fire and the interactions of the indigenous peoples that lived here. If you think about it, the current ‘snapshot’ of many range sites where eastern red cedar has invaded to the point of forming solid dense block stands has only occurred over the last 100 or so years, prior to that, this invasive juniper was kept in check.

Fire is the single most effective tool in managing eastern red cedar encroachment. Historians report that the native plains burned quite frequently. Lightning strikes caused a few, but most were human set fires, either for attracting wild game, maintaining grassy herbaceous openings, or for warring among peoples. While prescribed burning is becoming more prevalent as a land management tool, it is HIGHLY advised that interested burners participate in training and other educational experiences before conducting a burn. Many variables are involved in having a successful burn. What is the fine fuel load present, grazing will most likely have to be deferred the previous growing season.

 

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