Exploring Fire Effects
The National Park Service(NPS) has established policies for the management of wildland and prescribed fire in parks throughout the country. Under certain conditions, fire program goals may be viewed in conflict with the preservation of archeological and other cultural resources. However, these goals are not mutually exclusive and with sound scientific information park managers can balance the need for archeological preservation with the use of fire for managing park ecosystems.
With funding provided by the Interagency Fire Center’s Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP), an NPS team of researchers and fire personnel are exploring the effects on archeological resources in the Midwest Region. The Midwest Region covers a vast area of thirteen states and several distinct regional ecosystems from the Great Lakes to the Central Great Plains. Midwest Region parks also include a diverse set of archeological resources ranging from 12,000 year old prehistoric sites to homes of former U.S. Presidents. Numerous archeological sites in the region represent historic farmsteads, Civil War battlefields and military outposts, prehistoric earthworks and villages, and historic fur trade outposts.
The goal of this research is to achieve a better understanding of how fire and archeological resources interact in the Midwest Region. This will enable park managers to enhance the stewardship of archeological and natural resources managed by the NPS. Over the next three years, the research team will conduct experimental burns at six Midwest Region parks to collect data on local fire conditions and observe the impacts to surface or near-surface archeological materials. These experiments are designed to address questions regarding local fire conditions and the effects on archeological resources. Two parks were selected from each of the three distinct environmental zones: (1) Great Plains; (2) Great Lakes/Eastern Woodlands; and (3) Ozark Highlands. Experiments are designed to model typical fire conditions and archeological resources at each park in order to best address the local needs of park managers.