Playback Rate 1

Timecode: 00:00:00


Mark Mitchell [00:00:01] You know, the Western half of the state evolved under a fire regime. And I know in Mason county, I've read, that wildfires would come through here every three to seven years.

Mark Mitchell [00:00:12] And what that did was that kept your brush, so to speak, kept your brush at bay. You know, cedar, Ashe juniper, which is a very noxious plant in the Hill Country - it's native to Texas, but 150, 200 years ago, it was confined to the thickest, roughest draws where fire couldn't get into - the valleys and whatnot.

Mark Mitchell [00:00:35] The uplands, the flat - that was a grassland. And with the suppression of fire, it allowed a lot of very noxious native plants, such as the Ashe juniper, to, you know, extend its range.

Mark Mitchell [00:00:46] Well, when you've got a brush species, like Ashe juniper, or even like, say, something thinner that looks less, less intimidating, like a mesquite tree. When it's first growing out on the plains that gives a place for, for predators to hide. You know, a hawk can sit in a tree, or a bobcat can get behind the little mesquite tree and catch the prairie dog when he's not looking.

Mark Mitchell [00:01:09] So it gave the advantage to the predator versus the prairie dog.

Mark Mitchell [00:01:14] Also, by prescribed fire what you're doing is you're setting back that plant successional stage and you're making those plants that are there a lot more nutritious. So, after a fire, and then when the rains come, it's going to be the first place that greens up. And that's your best grazing for, of course, your prairie dogs, but not only that, the other plains animals - the pronghorn, the buffalo, maybe mule deer, whatever it was that lived there.

Mark Mitchell [00:01:42] You know, fire is just a great tool for making a piece of ground more fertile and, and more nutritious for those wildlife.

Mark Mitchell [00:01:51] And with that suppression, what you've seen through a lot of its range is that it's become a brush land, which is not conducive to a good prairie dog habitat.

Mark Mitchell [00:02:02] And that's, that's ... they all go together: you know, the fire suppression, the brush encroachment, the reduction of prairie dogs.

Mark Mitchell [00:02:10] So it's all, it's all like a working machine.