Theme 1: Rangeland/Grassland Ecology--Oral Sessions

Description

Elevated fuel loads together with hotter and drier climatic conditions are expected to produce more frequent catastrophic wildfires in rangelands. This has led to calls for more prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads. However, perceptions that prescribed fire presents substantial legal liability risks hinder its use by landowners. Here we present research findings about the perceptions of landowners, county commissioners and district court judges regarding prescribed fire in the Southern Great Plains. The extent of liability incorporated in legal statutes pertaining to prescribed fire can affect the use of this land management tool, and the enactment of burn bans by county officials can prevent the use of prescribed fire during conditions under which invasive volatile woody plants are most effectively controlled by fire. In states with gross negligence standards for applying prescribed fire landowners burn more than in states with simple negligence standards. The findings highlight several foci for increasing the use of fire to better manage volatile woody plants. These include reformulating legal statutes affecting the use of prescribed fire; better informing county officials about the wildfire mitigation benefits of prescribed fire to reduce volatile fuels; and the widespread establishment of prescribed burning associations to provide training, equipment and labour for land managers to apply prescribed fire safely.

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Fighting Wildfire with Prescribed Fire in the Southern Great Plains, USA: Liability, Regulatory and Social Factors

Elevated fuel loads together with hotter and drier climatic conditions are expected to produce more frequent catastrophic wildfires in rangelands. This has led to calls for more prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads. However, perceptions that prescribed fire presents substantial legal liability risks hinder its use by landowners. Here we present research findings about the perceptions of landowners, county commissioners and district court judges regarding prescribed fire in the Southern Great Plains. The extent of liability incorporated in legal statutes pertaining to prescribed fire can affect the use of this land management tool, and the enactment of burn bans by county officials can prevent the use of prescribed fire during conditions under which invasive volatile woody plants are most effectively controlled by fire. In states with gross negligence standards for applying prescribed fire landowners burn more than in states with simple negligence standards. The findings highlight several foci for increasing the use of fire to better manage volatile woody plants. These include reformulating legal statutes affecting the use of prescribed fire; better informing county officials about the wildfire mitigation benefits of prescribed fire to reduce volatile fuels; and the widespread establishment of prescribed burning associations to provide training, equipment and labour for land managers to apply prescribed fire safely.