Why I Burn…Chuck Stanley

Do you have any idea how blessed we are to have such incredible mentors of prescribed burning?  I believe what makes a good burner is one that never stops learning and always learns from every fire, every experience, every time.  I decided to showcase prescribed burn practitioners who are just AWESOME at what they do.  I have found that the best guys to burn with are the ones who do not care about the glory or the attention.  “Why I Burn” will showcase a prescribed burn practitioner who gets the job, doesn’t care about the credit, and has a true love and passion for prescribed burning.  These are their stories of fire.

Hello Chuck Stanley.  A friend. A colleague.  And a guy that has a wealth of knowledge underneath a dang good looking hat.  I first met Chuck through my dad.  Chuck and my dad were at a Society for Range Management meeting in Albuquerque and they were the only two men in the Advisory Council meeting that were #1) wearing black Stetsons and #2) talking common sense.  They would later bond over fire stories.  Fast-forward 8 years later and I am still hitting Chuck up for that common sense, boots-on-the-ground, hard-working, well-deserved, sweat-equity common sense.

Chuck has been putting fire on the landscape for 30 years, since his beginning range days at Texas Tech.  Chuck is a Range Management Specialist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Fort Worth.  He is, basically, the go-to-guy for all things RX Fire in Texas and, especially, with the NRCS.  In other words, he knows his stuff.  This is Chuck’s story of fire.

How did you get introduced to fire? Well that is interesting, To me anyway. When I first started Texas Tech, like many other freshmen, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I bounced from major to major and not really finding my niche. I believe at the time I was taking engineering classes and took an introductory course into range and wildlife habitat. That was when I decided to change majors once again and moved over to the Range and Wildlife department at TTU, thinking what a fortunate decision this would be as I could hunt and fish and get paid for it. So I had to go and visit with my new advisor to get my classes set up and little did I know I was sitting in front of the man who wrote the book on prescribed fire, Dr. Henry Wright. During my “interview” on classwork, Dr. Wright asked me if I had ever burned any rangeland. I thought it might be a trick question to see if I was or had been convicted of arson at some point. I have not been but I have “accidentally” burned a few acres in my younger days. Dr. Wright smiled and said “ well tomorrow we are going to go burn 5000 acres”, I said “on purpose?” From that point on, I was hooked and have been involved with prescribed fire for 30 years. Funny thing, I am getting paid for it.

Do you make special plans for fire in your management plans well in advance, or take advantage of good fuel and weather conditions as they come? It all depends on what type of burn we are needing to meet objectives, and where the burn is to take place (smoke management issues etc.) However, there are times that I have known a place that needed burning, and when a perfect day comes along, we get it done.

What’s the hook for you on fire? I would say the main hook for me is the rejuvenation of the vegetation following the burn. And the landowners satisfaction of the results. I really like to teach the art of prescribed fire and try to get others interested.

In your opinion, what makes a successful fire? Generally speaking, I would say one that stays within the perimeter of the burn site, and all personnel are safe. Beyond that, one where the objectives were met.

Who in your burn circle/crew would you never burn without? My matches and driptorch…. Over the years there have been a bunch of folks that I truly have absolute trust in while burning. Generally they have been doing this a good while, and know what to look for, and understand fire behavior very well. I would not hesitate calling anyone of them if they were in the vicinity. Because of my position now, I just don’t get to go and burn like I used to.

Why I Burn…Duff Hallman

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The Duff Ranch, located in Tom Green, Schleicher and Irion counties, received the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Family Land Heritage Award last fall for continuous operation by the same family for 100 years. The Duff Ranch was established in 1904 by Sam Houston Henderson 13 miles east of Eldorado. Sam accumulated more than 100,000 acres during his lifetime, where he ran 6,000 head of cattle. Today, Duff Hallman and Trip Hallman have operated the ranch since 1975.

Duff is a licensed and insured private prescribed burn manager through the Texas Department of Agriculture.

How did you get introduced to fire? Dr. Jake Landers at a field day at the San Angelo Research and Extension Ag Center

Do you make special plans for fire in your management plans well in advance, or take advantage of good fuel and weather conditions as they come? It is a combination of both; planning ahead for proper fire guards is ongoing whether it is a summer or winter burn and if fire is one of your methods of range improvement you seize opportunity when it knocks.

What’s the hook for you on fire? The hook for me is cost and results.Customary methods of conservation work are not cheap and cost share is fading. Burning must be a long term systematic approach.

In your opinion, what makes a successful fire? A successful fire is one that accomplishes the goals set out in the planning of the burn. I have never had a bad one. 

Who in your burn circle/crew would you never burn without?  My weather monitor and one of my sons who I am teaching this practice to. 

Meet a CEA…Lisa Brown

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Meet Lisa Brown – Menard County Extension Agent!  Lisa recently won the top Professional Category Award for Plant ID at the Texas Section Society for Range Management meeting in San Angelo earlier this month!

Why did you become a County Extension Agent? Growing up in a ranching family here in Menard the local ranchers are close to my heart so the opportunity to work with them was exciting. I also knew working with the youth here in Menard…bringing agriculture into the classrooms of the hallways in which I used to walk myself would be rewarding.   In addition I found great comfort in knowing I had 3 retired county agents and a retired range specialist living in Menard  to help show me the ropes. 

What are some concerns specific to agriculture in your county? Increased amounts of invasive brush and lack of water are the main concerns here in Menard County. 

What is the most rewarding part of your position? Working with the ranchers and landowners would by far be my favorite part of this job.  I have great respect for them as stewards of the land. 

What is the weirdest request you have ever received as a CEA and how did you solve it? I received a phone call that went something like this:  “My daughter just bought some goldfish.  Can you sex them for me?”  would definitely be my weirdest request.  While I scrambled to figure out which specialist I should call to find out the answer to this question, the caller finally identified himself as a fellow agent playing a joke on me….we still laugh about this.

If you could be anything else, what would you be? A FULLTIME rancher…no doubt. 

Why I Ranch…

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Frank and Sims Price Ranch

In 2012, Price Ranch was recognized for their range management when they were presented the Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship Award by the Texas Section, Society for Range Management and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. And it was recognized as a 2013 regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winner during the 2013 Cattle Industry Summer Conference.

How did you get your start in ranching? The Price family began ranching in 1876. Frank Price has managed his family’s ranch for 40 years, first in partnership with his father, and then in partnership with his son Sims in 2011. Together, they run their cow-calf operation on 68,000 acres. Sims and his wife Krista are the fifth generations of Prices on the ranch, which they operate in four counties. The ranch operates with three primary income enterprises including sheep, cattle, and hunting. 

How important is agriculture to your family?  The Price family has two primary goals. First, the ranch is operated as a separate business, self-sustaining, and is expected to show an annual profit. Second, but equal, their goal is to leave their natural resources in the best possible condition for the next generations.The family is dedicated to these goals. They have recently started using Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) dollars to make continuous improvements to the ranch, and they also use controlled and prescribed burning to their benefit by adjusting their livestock grazing charts to include speed of moves, flash grazing, animal density and total deferment.

What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? In a normal year, they receive 18 inches of rainfall. These last two years have been abnormal, with exceptional drought and devastating wildfires, particularly in their area,” said Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association President Joe Parker, Jr. “Even though they had to reduce their herd to protect their land, they still found lessons in flexibility during the adversities. The Price family’s experiences with wildfire lead them to be a leading voice in Texas on inter-agency cooperation in fighting wildfires. We are glad to have his practical and sound leadership in such an important area.” The father-son partnership at Price Ranch represents the fourth and fifth generations of Prices to ranch in west Texas.

Why I Burn – Wesley Evans, Regional Fire Coordinator, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.

This November we are featuring Wesley Evans, Regional Fire Coordinator for Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Wesley is based out of Mason, Texas and I have never met a more dedicated and caring individual for the stewardship of prescribed fire.  Wesley is super cool and he has my #1 favorite quality in prescribed burning practitioner – HE GET’S IT!  Meet one of my favorite TPW people, Wesley Evans…


tpwHow did you get introduced to fire?
I more or less lucked into fire. After graduating college, I didn’t have much direction or job prospects – I was literally sleeping on my buddy’s couch. One of my friend’s cousins was a District Fire Management Officer for the US Forest Service and she called me letting me know that they were going to have some firefighter jobs opening up soon and that I should apply. I applied and was hired on the Rolla Ranger District of the Mark Twain NF. The job was only a six month position, but only after a few weeks of prescribed burning and fighting wildfires I was hooked. As that job was starting to wind down, I began applying for fire positions all over the country. I was offered a position with the US Fish & Wildlife Service at Balcones Canyonlands NWR in the summer of 1999. I took the position, which turned out to be for a crewmember on a Prescribed Fire Module that would travel all over Texas (and the rest of the US) burning. The rest, as they say, is history. After 14 years with the USFWS, I moved to my current position with Texas Parks & Wildlife – still travelling and burning, but now just throughout Texas.

Do you make special plans for fire in your management plans well in advance, or take advantage of good fuel and weather conditions as they come? I try to find a way to do both. Weather is highly variable, so trying to plan a burn well in advance is most often an exercise in futility. I’ve found that the best approach is to take advantage of those good fire weather days as soon as possible because you might not get many more opportunities in a given burn season. This was relatively easy when I worked for an agency that had dedicated fire staff and equipment. With that being my only frame of reference for many years, I always that just thought that was the way it was done. The last few years in my new job working with private landowners, PBAs, and other agencies has shown me that this approach was the exception rather than the rule. While I was used to deciding to burn a particular unit the day before, I quickly learned that that’s more than often not possible in the “real world”. Now, I have to work through the same challenges that everyone else does in trying to balance prescribed burning with everything else we have to do. So how do I plan well in advance yet still take advantage of those good fire conditions? The very first thing is to set expectations from the start of the planning process. The more flexibility we can set in the burn plan, the more chance of success in both meeting the management goals or even getting a chance to burn. I try to dissuade my landowners from picking one specific day well in advance to burn. Sometimes it’s just the way it has to be, but I would much rather plan for a 3-5 consecutive day burn window during burn season or several days throughout the season. Planning to burn on January 22 really paints you into a corner and limits your flexibility. I’d rather see something like planning on burning January 20-23 and then picking a specific day once we are about a week out when the weather forecasts are a little more accurate. I’ve also had success with planning on burning on several days spaced out over time, such as Fridays in February. Breaking up a burn area into several smaller units and not just one large unit can also help to take advantage of those “just right” burn conditions and also allow for success if the burn day is marginal, but the people and equipment are available and ready to burn. More often than not it will take less people to burn a smaller burn unit, so it may be easier to get enough folks to burn 50 acres on short notice rather than 400. Along those same lines, if we have planned on a burn day in advance and the weather isn’t right for burning the whole unit there may be possibility to burn a smaller area. If the RH is too high, can you burn a small portion to make a blackline or buffer? If the wind direction isn’t good for the whole unit, can you still burn part of it that won’t smoke out your neighbor or that highway? I had one larger burn planned well in advance when we were going to have the proper amount of people and equipment, but it ended up snowing that day. We were still able to take advantage of having everyone there by burning piles that were along the edge of the burn unit, making burning the large unit much easier. I also try to make my prescriptions as broad as possible to take advantage of “marginal” burn days. For example, higher winds can offset higher RH and still produce adequate fire behavior to meet management goals. Having really good fire breaks can also let you take advantage of those marginal days on the other end of the prescription. I’m much more comfortable burning under hotter and drier conditions if we have nice and wide fire breaks down to mineral soil and no brush or volatile fuels close to the line. The bottom line is that building flexibility into the planning process and the burn plans will allow more success. This can also help in avoiding those situations where you may get stuck trying to burn under marginal conditions and either not meet management objectives OR have the fire get away.

What’s the hook for you on fire? I think there has been three different stages of my fire career, each with their own hook. When I first started, I loved prescribed fire because it was fun, exciting, and allowed me to travel. What 22-25 year old guy wouldn’t love traveling all over the country dragging a drip torch or working on a fire engine, right? After several years of this, fire is still exciting and fun but not the main reason that I enjoy prescribed burning. About 8 years ago I would have probably said that I burned just because it was a job, but looking back on it that’s not the case. At that point I loved prescribed fire because of the challenge/problem-solving aspect of it. I enjoyed (and still do) being given a difficult assignment on a burn and trying to find the best and safest way to complete it was the hook for me. Now, the main reason I love prescribed fire is that I can teach people about prescribed fire. When we assist a landowner who has little to know experience with fire (or who’s only experience is with wildfire) and show them what a properly planned and executed prescribed fire looks like, the reaction is always the same – “that wasn’t that bad/scary. I think that’s something we could do.” I love that. Or when you can see the light bulb come on as someone is doing something as simple as operating a drip torch. That’s the hook for me. I’ve seen it time and time again and it doesn’t matter who it is. Young or old, man or woman. At first they are timid, walking slow maybe even holding the torch with two hands. At the end of the day they are slinging that torch like a hotshot and showing others how to do it. That’s the hook for me now. I still enjoy the fun, excitement, and challenge – but the teaching/mentoring is what motivates me to keep burning.

In your opinion, what makes a successful fire? First of all, it’s a successful fire when everyone gets home safe (that’s probably the wildland firefighter in me). If we managed to keep all the equipment running and didn’t break anything, that’s a plus. I also think it’s successful if everyone involved learned something on the fire. It doesn’t really matter what they learned – as long as they learned something. It can be about fire behavior, specific firing techniques, weather influences, how a particular fuel burns, the planning process, etc. Even if someone learned that they don’t really care for burning and it’s not the tool for them, that’s still an important thing to know. A burn is also successful if we can put a column of smoke up in the air and it doesn’t result in a ton of calls into 911, worried neighbors, etc. This is really important in the wildland-urban interface. Getting communities more comfortable with prescribed burning is vitally important in growing the fire culture here in Texas. The last measure of success for me is meeting the management objectives. If we can be successful in all of the ways above and still meet objectives, than I’d consider a burn to be fully successful. If objective aren’t met yet everyone is safe, folks learned a thing or two, and we promoted the fire culture a little in the area – I’m still more than pleased.

Who in your burn circle/crew would you never burn without?  That’s a tough question just because I burn in so many different places with so many different folks. In most cases, I will do a burn on one ranch or with a cooperator and then on the next burn I do there will be a whole new set of people. I suppose it is one disadvantage of my job that I’m not able to burn with the same people every time. If you do 30 or 40 burns with someone, you get to know how they think and are able to predict their thoughts and actions somewhat. It’s like playing pick-up basketball. You play with the same bunch of guys for long enough, and you start to know each one’s tendencies and strengths/weaknesses. Then you go to a different court or gym and have to learn it all over again. In the second situation, you can only be successful if there is plenty of communication and everyone is willing to work with each other. Seems to me that’s about the same as a burn crew. Our staff here at TPWD are very well trained, so even if I’ve never burned with one of our employees or even just met them – I know that they have been trained to the same standard that we all have and know the basics. I’ve always had positive experiences burning with the PBAs as well. The wealth of knowledge and experience in all of the burn associations I’ve worked with is such that I’m comfortable on those burns even if I’ve never met some (or most) of the folks on the burn. So, I guess an answer to the question is that there isn’t anyone that I wouldn’t burn without. I don’t really have that luxury. As long as everyone is willing to learn and communicate, I’ve always had good experience with all my burn crews – even complete strangers.

Thank you Wesley for all that you do for prescribed burning on Texas rangelands!

Meet a CEA – Trevor Dickschat

I met my good friend, Trevor Dickschat, when he served as the McCulloch County Extension Agent.  Since then he has since relocated to Giddings, TX where he serves as the Lee County Ag and Natural Resources Extension Agent.  Trevor loves working as an agent almost as much as he loves Aggie football and hunting, which is ALOT.  What I appreciate most about Trevor is that he doesn’t care who gets the glory or credit, he just wants the job done and done right.  He is an incredible agent and I truly miss working with him.  What our loss in McCulloch County was, is now Lee County’s gain.  Thank you Trevor for doing what you do.  You’re pretty darn good at it 🙂

Meet Trevor Dickschat – Lee County Extension Agent! (McCulloch County Extension Agent at time of writing this blog)

dickschatWhy did you become a County Extension Agent?  I became an extension agent because of the 4H program of which has shaped me into the professional that I have become. I was raised on a farm, primary production of cattle and hay, and was very active in the show industry and 4H. My passion for hunting and fishing, and the outdoors have grown with age and experiences. I figured why not give back to those who have allowed me the opportunity to enjoy what I am passionate about.

What are some concerns specific to agriculture in your county?  Water, of course is the bigges challenge that we are facing and will continue to face in the future. From growing up in east Texas to moving out West, the concern for invasive plant species and overpopulation of unwanted plants is a concern and something that I hope to continue to educate my county.

What is the most rewarding part of your position? Being able to hear what new and exciting things individuals took from educational presentations and Realizing that I helped allow to future benefit my constituents. Whether that be from the ag and natural resource and adult perspective, to the youth development.

What is the weirdest request you have ever received as a CEA and how did you solve it? I once hosted a 4H dance and one of the youngsters approached myself, the DJ and asked to play some REAL music they could dance to. After I had enough of Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean music I could stand I finally broke down and played the Wobble. Every kid got out on that dance floor and not a single one sitting. My response was, what is our music generation coming to…. 🙂

If you could be anything else, what would you be? I would love to manage a wildlife ranch in which the main focus would be large game and raising cattle, and would host private hunts and outdoor experiences.

Jimmie Powell – Thee Man

Mr. James L. Powell accepted the Foy Proctor Memorial Cowman’s Award of Honor in Midland last week and some of the greatest stories of West Texas were shared.

I first met Mr. Powell on a prescribed burn south of San Angelo and the man is just cool.  He is humble, gracious, hard-working, not to mention, a legend. He even has his own chapter in the Texas Cattle Barons book.  But in my book, he is right up there with John Wayne and other cowboy heroes. img_5557

The following is a story he told while at the 20th Fall Gatherin’.

“WWII was underway and all the cowboys who were in their 20s had been drafted if they hadn’t already enlisted.  We were rounding cattle in Reagan and Crockett County.  It encompassed about 64 sections.  The corrals where they loaded the cattle on the train were right in the city limits of Big Lake.  Back then we gathered the calves and weaned them as we worked a pasture.  We had all the calves grouped in a four-section pasture leading in to the corrals.  Now keep in mind it was just myself, my dad, and the foreman on that place and three boys that my dad got out of school that day.  We were handling about 400 head of fresh weaned calves, and we had started mov
ing those calves up the fenceline.  We had them grouped up on the north fenceline about a mile or so from the pens, and about the time they got those calves to the corrals, the train came by.  That engineer blew his whistle three or four times, and there was no way in the world we could hold those calves together.  They went between us and under us and before we knew it they were scattered all over that pasture again.  I know if my father could have caught that engineer, he would have talked to him about that.”

Dr. Jake Landers’ Thoughts on Mesquite

Dr. Jake Landers morphed into a Range Father of mine overnight.  The second I met him he was my hero.

Dr. Jake Landers served as an Extension Range Specialist at the Texas A & M Research and Extension Center, San Angelo in 1979.  He developed techniques and procedure for individual plant treatment of brush and prickly pear cactus for ranchers in 17 counties.  He initiated prescribed burning as a procedure for managing rangeland to reduce undesirable species and stimulate grasses.  He wrote short articles for newspapers and magazines and continued writing after his retirement from the Extension Service.  He was recognized as the outstanding person in Range by the Texas Section of the Society for Range Management in 1990 and Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award by the parent society in 2016.

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Below, are Dr. Lander’s thoughts on mesquite.  Have a laugh, enjoy the irony, and appreciate the life-long hobby of brush management 🙂

“SOME OF MY DEEPEST THOUGHTS, SOME ON MESQUITE

  1. People who have a kind feeling toward Mesquite, by and large, have not had to make a living on Mesquite-covered rangeland.
  2. Mesquite trees, like West Texas ranchers, have roots deep in the land where we tend to admire and respect tenacity.
  3. Mesquite on rangeland reminds me of athlete’s foot; you can live without treating it for a long time, even a lifetime, but it is aggravating, and it tends to get worse if ignored.
  4. Mesquite shade is a poor excuse for shade.
  5. In a forest of Mesquite trees, none of them grow straight.
  6. The inside of a Mesquite tree when polished is prettier than the outside, unless it’s rotten.
  7. The smell of meat cooking over Mesquite wood coals is as pleasurable as opening a fresh can of your favorite coffee.
  8. I’ve never chewed on a Mesquite bean that I really liked, but it gives you something to do if you don’t have tobacco.
  9. Mesquite doesn’t seem to have any enemies except humans.
  10. A wooden nickel made of Mesquite is worth a lot in China, I’ll bet on it.
  11. If we came up with a sure-fire, cheap method of killing Mesquite, there would be at least one rancher who would complain about losing the beans for his cows during the next drought.
  12. I started making wooden nickels out of Mesquite to get rid of it, now I might have to replant some or borrow from my neighbors.
  13. I keep a few old Mesquite trees just to grow beautiful Mistletoe for Christmas decorations.
  14. Goats have been bred up to consume Cedar, why not breed up a llama to eat Mesquite leaves.
  15. There’s no thorn like a Mesquite thorn; it even hurts when you pull it out.
  16. When Algerita berries don’t make a crop, the Mockingbirds have to depend on Mistletoe berries on Mesquite and Hackberry.
  17. I almost disabled my pickup hitting a Mesquite stump hidden in the grass that grew after the tree was cut down.
  18. If you cut down a Mesquite and don’t paint the stump to keep it from sprouting, you are not going to Heaven when you die.
  19. Real old Mesquite are as rare as real old people, a tiny percent of the whole population.
  20. You would think there would be a disease like Oak wilt that could wipe out Mesquite.”

Thank you Dr. Landers!

Why I Burn.

This October we are featuring Mr. Jeff Goodwin, Range and Pasture Consultant Agricultural Division with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK.  Jeff is a Texas man, but more importantly he is a fire man who promotes the responsible and practical use of fire on rangelands.

How did you get introduced to fire?  I got introduced to fire as an undergraduate at Tarleton State goodwin-picUniversity’s Range and Ranch Management program. After graduate school, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Bill Pinchak and Dr. Jim Ansley at the Texas A&M Research Center in Vernon, Texas conducting research projects utilizing fire to manage landscapes in the Rolling Plains of Texas.  The majority of my experience with fire however, has come through the 15 years I spent as a rangeland management specialist with USDA-NRCS. They provided the training, experience, and opportunity to work with landowners to address rangeland resource concerns and meet their management objectives. Very often in a fire starved landscape, those rangeland management objectives were achieved and/or aided with the proper application of prescribed fire

Do you make special plans for fire in your management plans well in advance, or take advantage of good fuel and weather conditions as they come?  I have been trained my entire career to be a planner, to think about how our management will meet a specific goal and how that action will affect other resources.  However, to answer the question Yes I make plans well in advance, but I also take advantage of favorable conditions as they arise. To me that’s the beauty of a well written and designed prescribed fire plan. Many times we have a specific goal or objective we want to accomplish within a particular burn unit. The challenge and objective should be to write your burn plan specific enough to meet the objective yet the prescription parameters should be open enough so that you have the flexibility to take advantage of those favorable conditions as they arise. The worst thing you can do is to make the prescription parameters so tight that you that you 1) will never meet them and thus never get the burn implemented or 2) push yourself to the limits of your plan parameters and possibly open yourself to liability issues should trouble arise. 

What’s the hook for you on fire? The hook for me with fire is that I am a student of Ecology. For too many years we have looked at fire as a “tool” to manage rangelands. Fire is not a tool, it is an ecological process. A “tool” can be put back in the toolbox and/or replaced. We are currently seeing across the region what happens when we try to replace or use fire sparingly as a tool. I currently live in the middle of the Southern Great Plains, an area encompassing the majority of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Every square inch of rangeland in this region evolved under a fire regime with a fire return frequency, it was part of the fire dependent ecology of this region. As “we” began to manage those rangelands, 150 years ago we suppressed that ecological process. Many of the battles that we fight today in the field of rangeland management are directly related to that suppression, (i.e. woody brush encroachment, reduced rangeland productivity, etc.). So my hook is returning the ecological functionality of our rangeland resources while meeting management objectives of the land stewards that care for them.

In your opinion, what makes a successful fire? A successful fire in my opinion is one that meets the goal and objective of the burn unit. I am not a fan of burning just to burn. Many times we miss opportunities or do not meet the specific objectives of a fire just because we want to get it “done”. For instance, if my goal is to control or suppress Prickly Pear cactus, I will need a couple of things to ensure that outcome. I will need to choose a year or time when we have grown enough fine fuel to carry the fire to adequately meet that objective. I should choose prescription parameters that will effectively allow for a fire hot enough to meet those objectives. If we burn on a day that does not meet those parameters then we will likely not meet the original objective and we will have utilized our fine fuel. Now, I agree there are multiple benefits to getting fire back on the landscape. However, I am in the business of meeting landowner objectives and managing rangeland, to do that we need to be successful with our management applications and fire is no exception. Earlier I stated that Fire was an ecological process that needed to return to Texas rangelands, that is true. With that said, we need to be the ones that decide, when, where, how much and how long. This is where we take the science of rangeland management and turn it into and art.

Who in your burn circle/crew would you never burn without?  I do not have a specific person that I would not burn without, however I will not burn without speaking to my Lord and Savior. I pray before each burn that the lord provides his hand in safety over the crew, the clarity to make the right decision at the right time, and the gratitude for the responsibility to care for the rangeland resources he has provided us dominion over. Fire is a necessary process but can be very unforgiving if the proper amount of respect is not given. Safety is and will always be our number one priority on a burn.

Thank you Jeff!

Why I Ranch.

This October we are featuring Mr. James K. Rooter Brite, Jr. from Bowie, Texas.  Rooter is a father, rancher, conservationist, and my friend. The Brite Ranch has been a member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) for Rooter’s entire life. He has been a director of the TSCRA since 1999, and has served on their Agriculture and Research and Natural Resources and Environmental committees since 1994. He has served as a director of the Upper-Elm Red Soil and Water Conservation District since 1979. He has served on the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts board and on the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. He represents the National Association of Conservation Districts on the National Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative steering committee. Additionally, he serves on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Natural Resource and Environment Committee.

rooter1How did you get your start in ranching? I am a third
generation on this ranch.  I was born and raised on the ranch where my grandfather J.A. Brite purchased in 1929. I took over my dad’s cow herd in the mid-1960s and purchased the ranch from dad in 1974, when I began full-time management of the ranch with my wife, Lynda, and eventually my son, J.K.

How important is agriculture to your family?  Agriculture is about one third of my income.  You have to look at the cumulative value of everything you do on the land. Management decisions you make now will make a difference 30 years from now. It all adds up, whichever direction you go. At an early age I learned the cause and effect of different land management practices. These first-hand lessons I learned from the land stimulated my desire to learn more and be diversified in my management. I apply land management practices that are practical, using common sense. I don’t do things because they are what somebody else thinks might be good. I do things because they work on this land, and that’s what makes the difference.

What makes ranching in West Texas so unique?  The only constant is inconsistency  with the weather and markets. 

Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education?  There needs to be a much greater attention on ag, but it must be taught by qualified and experienced teachers.

Who did you learn the most from along the way?  By college age, I was intrigued by the land so I enrolled in Texas Christian University’s two-year Ranch Management program. TCU Professor Chip Merrill inspired me to try new things and not be afraid to try something different. I approached the resource management of the ranch using a short-term reactionary response to changing forage, production, and anticipated market condition. My long-term management is of a continuing upward trend in success of native forage. I feel like we can utilize our current management methods and maintain, or in areas of need, improve the productivity of this ranch in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.

Thank you Rooter!