This year's planning means next year's success when it comes to preparing for a prescribed burn.

According to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservationists, prescribed burning is an effective tool for improving rangeland productivity, improving forage and soil quality, increasing plant diversity and improving wildlife habitat.

"Planning for a prescribed burn should begin a year before the fire is carried out," said Kent Ferguson, NRCS state rangeland management specialist. "A sound grazing management program is the key to producing adequate amounts of fine fuel for a successful prescribed burn."

In planning now for next year's burn, steps to be taken include:

Consulting with NRCS, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas AgriLife Extension Service, The Nature Conservancy, prescribed burn associations and neighbors with prescribed burn experience.

Developing a written prescribed burn plan based on your goals and objectives that will be followed on burn day.

The plan will include details of the prescribed fire, such as detailed description of the area to be burned, the design of fireguards, the removal of brush piles and slash at least 500 feet into the burn area, personnel needs for the burn, required weather and fuel conditions, and other details of the burn that meet your prescription.

"Burning is an inexpensive and effective way to manage your grazing resources," Ferguson said. "But you won't get the results you want if you don't plan ahead."

If you would like more information about planning a prescribed burn on your property, contact your local NRCS field office or visit the NRCS Texas Web site at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.

For a copy of the publication, "Prescribed Burning for Landowners: Success is in the Planning" e-mail melissa.blair@tx.usda.gov or request a copy by calling Melissa Blair at (361) 241-0609.