To Burn or Not to Burn: Ecological Restoration, Liability Concerns, and the Role of Prescribed Burning Associations
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CitationToledo, D., Kreuter, U. P., Sorice, M. G., & Taylor, Jr., C. A. (2012). To Burn or Not to Burn: Ecological Restoration, Liability Concerns, and the Role of Prescribed Burning Associations. Rangelands, 34(2), 18-23.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
AbstractFire suppression in ecosystems that have evolved in the presence of fire, together with the occurrence of other natural and anthropogenic processes, has resulted in the conversion of many grasslands and savannas to woodlands. From an ecological perspective, eliminating fire in areas that evolved with fire inhibits natural processes that limit woody plant expansion and, consequently, promotes ecosystem degradation. From an economic perspective, brush encroachment associated with fire suppression has led to reduced livestock carrying capacity and destruction of property by catastrophic fires that occur when accumulated fuel loads ignite under hot dry conditions. By contrast, research results suggest many ecological and economic benefits to using prescribed fire. This leaves social constraints as the primary hurdle to applying periodic fire on the landscape. Prescribed fire has not been adopted widely as a management and/or restoration tool primarily because of perceived safety and legal concerns. In this paper we discuss the benefits and risks of using prescribed fire and how prescribed burn associations have mitigated these risks, resulting in an increase of prescribed fire application, including extreme restoration burns that are ignited under wildfire-like conditions.