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2009-07-16 digital edition

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2009-07-16 / Community News

Prescribed Burn Associations

Fire plays an important role in most ecosystems and is a vital component of ecosystem function. Because fire was a natural factor on most Texas rangelands and forestlands before European settlement, native vegetation and wildlife are well adapted to burning. Fire effectively suppresses many woody plant species while encouraging grass and forb growth beneficial to livestock and wildlife. Wildfires can occur any time fuels will burn and often under very hazardous conditions. But with prescribed burning, conditions such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, fuel moisture and condition of vegetation are carefully selected to ensure a safe and effective burn designed to maximize desired benefits.

Prescribed burning is often recommended by wildlife biologists and range management specialists assisting landowners throughout Texas. Many landowners understand the benefits of prescribed fire but don't have the experience or confidence to carry out the practice without technical help. With this need arose the formation of prescribed burn associations in Texas.

Prescribed burning associations are a fairly new concept to land management and have become increasingly important as landowners and managers become more active in using FIRE as a management tool. These associations are made up of landowner cooperatives that are user owned, controlled and operated. Burn associations share knowledge, experience and equipment among contributing members to increase the application and safety of prescribed fire as a management tool. A prescribed burning association can significantly reduce risks through increased experience, knowledge and available resources. Experience has shown that locally run burn associations are more efficient in accomplishing prescribed burns because they can organize the required labor and support quickly within the often narrow window of desired weather conditions

A prescribed burn is the planned and deliberate application of fire as a management tool for land stewardship. Unlike wildfires, prescribed burns are conducted under predetermined environmental conditions to achieve specific resource management goals and objectives. Agency personnel assisting landowners are unable to meet the demand for the onsite technical assistance required to implement effective prescribed burning throughout the state. By working with groups of landowners and providing

initial training and support, agencies can help more landowners accomplish their individual range and habitat management goals. Important landowner

benefits include:

• Support of a locally led and run organization of neighbors helping neighbors

• Reduced costs of fire management

• Reduced risk through increased experience, equipment, training and technical assistance

• Ability to get more prescribed burning done on your land and the satisfaction of helping your neighbors do the same

The Edwards Plateau Prescribed Burning Association formed near Sonora, Texas, in 1997. The association started with 30 members but quickly grew to 60 members within the first year. Originally formed to serve three counties, membership has increased to 500 landowners and 10 chapters covering 17 counties. In 2006, The Coastal Bend Prescribed Burn Association was formed near Victoria, Texas and currently covers 8 coastal counties and has over 80 members.

This neighbor helping neighbor cooperative has provided the resources, education, encouragement and empowerment necessary to help restore fire on a sustained basis. The hands-on approach has built an experienced community labor force and a critical mass of likeminded people who can collectively influence the attitudes of their community. Members are encouraged to attend prescribed burning schools and actively participate in as many burns as possible. If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/ wildlifebiologist.

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