Prairie fires set by lightning or by people were common in this region.
Fortunately, most prairie plants are long-lived perennials with deep, extensive root systems. Their ability to produce vigorous new shoots below the soil's surface enables them to survive fire, grazing, and drought.
Prairies would not be here without the American Indian.
In 1838, Joseph Nicollet wrote, "It is good testimony in favor of my opinion that all the prairies watered by the Mississippi and the Missouri are the work of the Indians who destroy by fire the rich vegetation to assure themselves of animal food. Let the vast and shorn prairies that we cross remain untouched and the forests, with time, will reappear."
Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and Prairies, 1993
Today, conservationists set fires periodically to maintain and encourage prairie growth.