Following a record-breaking wildfire season, the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Texas AgriLife Research and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service have assisted prescribed burn associations throughout the state in forming the new Texas Alliance of Prescribed Burn Association.
The purpose of the alliance will be to safely increase the use of prescribed burning, according Roel Lopez, the institute’s associate director. Lopez said prescribed burning, or the controlled application of fire to the naturally occurring buildup 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, comprised of 11 prescribed burn associations, is particularly important after the 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.”
“The alliance will promote education and training and increase the practice of safe prescribed burn techniques,” said Larry Joe Doherty, the alliance’s new president. “Prescribed burning techniques safely applied can reduce the dangers of fuel buildups that lead to the terror of wildfires and[their]destructive forces. At the same time, we are honoring our duties as good land stewards by improving wildlife habitat and agricultural production.”
Jim Kenton, alliance 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.
Individual ranchers and range managers, federal and state agencies, The Nature Conservancy and wildlife associations have all used prescribed burns sporadically since the 1970s, according to alliance officials. In 1997, Texas’ first prescribed burn association, the Edwards Plateau Prescribed Burn Association, was established.
Before the newly formed alliance, the 11 prescribed burn associations, which are typically nonprofits 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.
Lopez said the institute received funds through a 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 develop web-based training for individuals wanting to attain prescribed-burning certification.
“Many private landowners understand the benefits of prescribed fire, but lack the experience or confidence to frequently apply prescribed burns,” Lopez said in reference to the need for training.
Alliance officers are Doherty, president; Kenton, vice president; Dave Redden; secretary; and Stan Graff, treasurer.
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. The alliance is about making Texas safer, not about making a profit.”
For more information on the alliance and to learn more about the benefits of prescribed fire, go to http://pfire.tamu.edu.