Texans are using prescribed fire more than ever to manage land and mitigate wildfires. A recent statewide survey found that 402,017 acres were treated with prescribed fire in Texas during 2018.
That’s an increase of nearly 50,000 acres from the previous year, due to Texans using prescribed fire to manage their land in one of the most successful and cost-effective ways, and Texans are also doing a better job at reporting the use of prescribed fire.
“In a state as vast as Texas, no one agency has the sole responsibility of conducting and reporting all prescribed burning,” said Andy McCrady, Texas A&M Forest Service fuels coordinator. “We take a collaborative approach to land and fire management.”
In the spring of 2019, more than 60 stakeholders came together to create the Texas Prescribed Fire Council. Partners recognized there is a significant amount of forest and rangeland in Texas – most of it privately owned – and that it takes everyone working together to conserve and protect resources and communities.
The council is helping guide the use of prescribed fire in the state, and together with Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Research conducted the survey of prescribed fire use in Texas for 2018. The survey was disseminated via email to hundreds of professional land managers, governmental agencies and landowner groups.
“The level of collaboration we are seeing across the state regarding prescribed burning has increased participation in filling out these surveys and reporting acres burned,” McCrady said. “This data collection is providing a clearer picture of how extensively Texans are using prescribed fire.”
This regularly occurring snapshot of prescribed fire in Texas will be part of a national report conducted by the National Association of State Foresters and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils. Their report has historically shown that across the country, states in the Southeast conduct 70% of all prescribed burning activities.
In the South, prescribed fire is used for multiple reasons, including managing forestlands, rangelands and watersheds, maintaining wildlife habitats and mitigating future wildfires.
“By using fire in a prescriptive way, land managers can reduce hazardous fuel buildups – simultaneously meeting land management goals and moderating risk of severe wildfire in a cost-effective way,” said McCrady. “Fire is a natural part of the Texas landscape, and when landowners use prescribed fire, they help make our land safer for all Texans.”