Desert Door Field Guide

Wild places define who we are. Explore this field guide from the lens of a land steward for regeneration and conservation resources.

Conservation Series #1 | Back Burn

Our first Conservation Series project focuses on a time-tested process that embodies the Texas land — prescribed fire.

Prescribed fire is a raw practice, one of rebirth. This natural process has been ignited to prevent destructive fires, manage landscapes, restore natural woodlands, and for research purposes.

This partnership between Desert Door, 7 Oaks Ranch, Sul Ross University, and other land stewards used the powerful regenerative force of prescribed fire to foster new plant growth, expand wildlife populations, and create a healthy ecosystem at a large ranch in West Texas. Specifically we aimed to restore native grasses which prevent soil erosion and allow for proper water distribution on a mass of land where drought is recurring. The horizon is promising.

LISTEN:

IDENTIFY:

The “big four” most desirable prairie grasses are:

  1. Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

READ:

Wildland Fire: What is a prescribed fire?

Brief overview by the National Parks System about why fires are prescribed to certain areas, the tools used + required conditions.

Texas A&M Forest Service

Texas A&M offers Certified Prescribed Burn Manager courses. Contact them for more information. This is also a thorough source on forest + land management.

Returning controlled fire to the landscape

Brief read by The Nature Conservancy. Includes history on native fires in OH + regeneration projects they’ve conducted with the help of prescribed burns.

The ecological benefits of fire

National Geographic covers fire benefits for the overall ecosystem and how it is a requirement to the life of some plants + animals. Scroll to the bottom when finished reading to find more resources.

‘Fire is medicine’: the tribes burning California forests to save them

In depth read by The Guardian about the history of controlled burns in the US. It focuses on California’s Yurok tribe who used fire to steward their land for 13,000 years until laws in the late 1800s made this tradition illegal.

Fighting fire with fire: California turns to prescribed burning

Yale Environment 360 reports in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range that there is no choice but to fight fire with fire.

With rise in fires, prescribed burns may be a solution

PBS Newshour interview on the use of prescribed burns to prevent wildfires. Learn the difference in the amount of prescribed burns conducted in the southeast vs the west and how that impacts the amount of wildfires in these areas.

Restoring elk country: Oklahoma prescribed burns

Learn more about how prescribed burns benefit the overall food chain. They hone in specifically on how restoring native fires return prairie land to benefit the elk population in OK.

TedX: Why wildfires have gotten worse

Paul Hessburg has studied the Western landscapes his whole life and poses the harsh truth, “If we don’t change a few of our fire-management habits, we’re going to lose many more of our beloved forests.”

Blackland Research and Extension Center

A test lab by Texas A&M that researches native grasses, regeneration of Texas prairie land, and more. This source contains several articles and research materials on matters pertaining to native grass in Texas. They have events at the center open to the public to witness their findings and learn more.

Recreate a prairie

A really thorough source by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center that explains how much and why prairie lands, once the largest ecosystem in the country, have diminished. Read about what species of grass are native to this region, including Texas and the step-by-step process to recreating this important landscape.

Restoring fire to native grasslands

An inside look at The Nature Conservancy’s prescribed burn in Minnesota.

Where bison roam

In 2019, Smithsonian began a partnership with the American Prairie Reserve to buy back land in northern Montana. This project watches how the animal life changes with the restoration of land.

Dunn Ranch Prairie

A look into Dunn Ranch Prairie, 70,000 acres of protected native grasslands in Missouri, home to 100 species of birds. Includes a rundown of how they maintain this property including prescribed burns.

Why Prairie matters?

Executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, Carol Davit, talks about why restoring native prairie land is so important, how much we’ve lost already in the USA, and how easily its loss goes unnoticed.

The War on Cedar

In this 1997 Texas Monthly article, author Joe Nick Patoski shares background information on why cedar is such a thorn in Texas’ side and how what is actually a native species came to be such a nuisance.

Waging war on cedar trees

Article brings together how an absence of wildfires in Texas slowly changed the balance of cedar to native grasses and the effects that has had on the overall ecosystem. Now landowners seek to restore their land. Learn more about how they are doing it.

VISIT:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The facility is ideal for seeing and learning about an array of native Texan plants and landscapes. Make sure to visit their “Hill Country Trails” garden, a 70-acre controlled experiment in the use of prescribed fire.

Roam Ranch

This regenerative ranch covers topics from proper land management to soil health and therefore how grass health impacts the return of native bison to TX. You’ll gain a better understanding of why these things matter + how one leads to another to create healthy biodiversity. Visit for an event or tour.

Sheldon Lake State Park

Texas State Park that includes restored native prairie land. It’s an ideal place in the Houston area to learn more about native TX grasses.

Selah: Bamberger Ranch

Their expert guided public tours show how the ranch demonstrates the principles in land stewardship. They also offer several events including Wildlife Enhancement and Native Grass Workshops that specifically cover prescribed fire and how important native grass restoration is to our landscape.

Blackland

Texas A&M Agrilife Research & Extension Center that includes simulation models covering land management research, wildfire predicting + more.

Bastrop State Park

Visit this Texas State Park for an abundance of learning opportunities and bear witness to the long road to recovery after wildfire. Bastrop suffered a severe wildfire in 2011 that the forest is still recovering from, but it’s inspiring to see the park’s regrowth already and to learn about the return of prescribed fires to better manage this piece of land.

Cedar Hill State Park

Park includes and protects remnants of native prairie species. It’s an ideal place in Dallas to learn more about native Texas grasslands.

An earthy intoxicant for unearthly whims. Driftwood, Texas