Drought Increases Threat of Wildfires Across Texas
As severe drought conditions continue to scorch pasture lands and deplete water supplies across Texas, the Prescribed Burning Board, established within the Texas Department of Agriculture, recently created new licensing categories that allow more individuals to become licensed as certified prescribed burn managers. This action will in turn increase the number of prescribed burns and ultimately help reduce the threat of wildfires.
"Texas is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record, with conditions that meteorologists say occur only once or twice a century," Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. "I am pleased with the Prescribed Burning Board's action and believe it will assist us in protecting our state's land from the growing threat of wildfires."
With the board's recent action, applicants can apply to become a commercial certified prescribed burn manager (CCPBM) or a private certified prescribed burn manager (PCPBM). The latter is a newly created category that is more economically feasible for individual landowners who are only focused on managing their own property. The new license allows the private permit holder to burn only his land or that of his employer.
Individuals seeking private certification must meet the same experience and training requirements as those who are commercially certified. However, this new category allows individuals to submit their existing insurance policies for consideration to satby isfy insurance requirements.
"Prescribed burns are the best tools to prevent wildfires," Commissioner Staples said. "These changes will allow landowners to better manage land across the state and, at the same time, help reduce the risk of potential wildfires, which risk the lives of our citizens and damage communities, crops, livestock and wildlife. An added bonus is the improved habitat conditions for wildlife."
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According to climatologists, the 2008 drought is the second driest on record in Texas, behind one that occurred in 1918. Data released today by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 93 percent of Texas counties suffering from abnormally dry to some form of drought. Conditions in some parts of the state are so severe, Governor Perry has requested a disaster declaration for all 254 counties.
It is estimated the 2005-2006 drought caused $4.1 billion in losses to agriculture. A report dated March 13 by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service estimates the current drought is already costing Texas livestock producers nearly $1 billion.
From Jan. 1 through April 7, the Texas Forest Service reports 6,138 wildfires have swept across the state scorching more than 225,000 acres and destroying 582 structures, including homes and barns.