Conservation Matters January 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Prescribed burn alliance forms after record-breaking wildfire season

Prescribed burn The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Texas AgriLife Research and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service recently assisted prescribed burn associations throughout Texas in a historic formation of a statewide Prescribed Burn Alliance of Texas to safely increase the use of prescribed burning, according to the institute’s associate director.

Roel Lopez said prescribed burning, or the controlled application of fire to the naturally occurring build-up of fuels in a predetermined area, has been used for years to improve and manage forests and rangelands, improve wildlife habitat and reduce the risk of devastating wildfires.

“This statewide alliance, composed of 11 prescribed burn associations, is particularly important after the record-breaking wildfire season Texas just had,” he said. “Texas reported over 30,000 wildfires with nearly 4 million acres burned. More than 2,000 homes and an additional 2,000 other types of structures were lost.”

Larry Joe Doherty, the alliance’s new president, said the alliance will promote education and training and increase the practice of safe prescribed burn techniques.

“Prescribed burning techniques safely applied can reduce the dangers of fuel build-ups that lead to the terror of wildfires and its destructive forces,” Doherty said. “At the same time we are honoring our duties as good land stewards by improving wildlife habitat and agricultural production.”

Jim Kenton, the alliance’s vice president, said the alliance will work collaboratively with private landowners, county governments, federal and state agencies, and natural resource organizations to foster the acceptance and use of prescribed burning in Texas.

“Many of the devastating fires were especially dangerous because volatile fuels had been allowed to accumulate in forests and rangelands,” Kenton said.

Before the alliance, the 11 prescribed burn associations, which are usually non-profits owned and operated by more than 1,000 private landowners, worked mostly on their own, Doherty said. “Without uniformity in training and using privately purchased fire equipment, they assisted their neighbors in safely conducting prescribed burns,” he said. 

Susan Durham, the South Texas Prescribed Burn Association president, encouraged landowners to organize a prescribed burn association and join the alliance. “The South Texas Prescribed Burn Association recently reorganized along with neighboring prescribed burn associations and reached out to the experts organizing the Texas Alliance of Prescribed Burn Association for assistance,” Durham said. “We found an overwhelming response from them all, offering whatever resources we needed.”

Lopez said the institute, AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension received a grant funded through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant to help form the alliance. Funds also were used to design and develop a prescribed fire website to serve the burn associations and to develop web-based training for individuals to attain burning certification. The Prescribed Fire Portal is pfire.tamu.edu.

“Many private landowners understand the benefits of prescribed fire but lack the experience or confidence to frequently apply prescribed burns,” Lopez said, about the need for training.

Alliance officers are Doherty, president; Kenton, vice president; Dave Redden, secretary; and Stan Graff, treasurer.

For more information on the alliance and to learn more about the benefits of prescribed fire, visit pfire.tamu.edu.

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