2018 National Prescribed Fire Use Survey Report

The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils (CPFC) worked collaboratively to produce the 2018 National Prescribed Fire Use Survey Report. Since 2012, this report has been compiled every three years, and is unique among fire surveys. Numerous surveys have been conducted that investigated the challenges that fire managers and land owners face relative to prescribed fire use in the United States. Although informative, these surveys do not specifically address the challenges state agencies navigate in managing fire programs. States operate independently to develop policy and regulations that work for their own interests; as a result, prescribed fire programs differ greatly by state and region. This system of state autonomy is the foundation upon which fire programs are built, therefore it is especially important to have a deeper understanding of each state’s perspective.

This year’s survey results showed 11.3 million acres were treated with prescribed fire in 2017. The majority of acres (80%) were burned to meet forestry objectives with the balance related to agriculture. Although the Southeast led the nation in total acres (7.6 million), the West’s 3.3 million acres represented an increase over 2014 and 2011 estimates. Despite this increase in burn acres in the West, the Southeast and the Northeast, as well as the nation as a whole, have experienced a decline in total prescribed fire acres. The national total is down 12% from 12.8 million acres in 2011; only 14 states (28%) increased their prescribed fire activity from 2011 to 2017. Consistent with previous surveys four states burned 1+ million acres, but for the first time zero acres were reported by some states. At the same time, the number of prescribed fire councils has grown to 35 councils in 31 states, a 40% increase since 2011. Weather, capacity, and air quality/smoke management remain the top three impediments for prescribed fire implementation. Weather outranked all other categories with 8 out of every 10 states identifying it among their top three impediments. Although the wildland-urban interface (WUI) is often cited as a reason for not getting fire on the ground, surprisingly only one state chose WUI as the number one limitation on the use of prescribed fire, and WUI was the impediment category with the fewest states listing it among the top three impediments. Significantly, this survey documents for the first time the degree of liability as defined in each state’s prescribed fire statute(s). Five states (10%) have no prescribed fire law, and only seven states (14%) have the highest degree of liability protection in the form of gross negligence laws.

Clearly programmatic similarities and differences exist at national, regional, and state scales when considering prescribed fire management. The path from authorizing an individual prescribed burn to the act of placing an active flame on the ground is riddled with challenges at every step. Only by fully understanding our collective role and responsibility can prescribed fire be safeguarded in the future. It is the intent of the NASF and CPFC that the National Prescribed Fire Use Surveys serve as a means to foster collaborative support and partnerships that increase the appropriate use of prescribed fire as a natural resource management tool to enhance forest health and public health and safety.

Prescribed Fire and Fire-adapted Habitats of the East Gulf Coastal Plain: A Communications Strategy of the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture

Almost all Southeastern upland systems, as well as some types of wetlands, have been shaped and maintained by periodic fire. Decades of fire suppression have degraded these systems and have changed the human perception of fire and its role on our landscape. Prescribed fire serves as a crucial management tool to restore and maintain these habitats, and its use is a critically important issue in the Southeast.

This Communications Strategy proposes that the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture (EGCPJV) assume the role of prescribed fire champion by focusing its coordination, outreach and partnership activities through the lens of prescribed fire – a process vital to the ecological health of the natural communities that support birds and wildlife diversity. This document is strategic, providing a comprehensive framework of prescribed fire issues and messages within which the EGCPJV will
further identify priority actions. The “niche” of the EGCPJV with respect to prescribed fire is to focus on fire’s ecological benefits to wildlife, specifically birds, and provide wildlife-focused education and outreach materials to key audiences.

This strategy builds upon the unique strengths of the EGCPJV Management Board and staff, which lend themselves to achieving prescribed fire goals. It was developed over the course of several months based upon information provided in interviews of ~45 prescribed fire/resource management experts throughout the East Gulf Coastal Plain, as well as guidance from the EGCPJV staff and board members concerning their mission, strengths and appropriate roles in promoting prescribed fire.

A Guide to Prescribed Fire in Southern Forests [1989]

Fire has played a major role in determining the distribution of plants across the South. Some plant communities such as cypress swamps survive for centuries between prolonged droughts that finally allow stand replacement fires to enter. Other communities such as the once vast expanse of longleaf pine burn every few years. In fact some ecosystems, for example the longleaf pine-wiregrass association, require periodic fire for their very survival.

A basic premise of fire ecology is that wildland fire is neither innately destructive nor constructive: it simply causes change. Whether these changes are viewed as desirable or not depends upon their compatibility with one’s objectives. Irrespective of man’s viewpoint, change is biologically necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Resource managers have learned to manipulate fire-caused changes in plant and animal communities to meet their needs, and those of humankind in general, while at the same time preserving underlying natural processes and functions. They do this by varying the timing, frequency, and intensity of fire.

Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

This is a 2012 update of the original 1966 guide. This guide provides basic information needed to help you become technically proficient in the proper planning and use of prescribed fire. A glossary toward the end of this manual will help with unfamiliar terms. To learn more about the subject of prescribed fire, a list of suggested readings follows the glossary.