To Burn or Not to Burn: Ecological Restoration, Liability Concerns, and the Role of Prescribed Burning Associations

Toledo, David
Society for Range Management
Publication Year: 
Fire suppression in ecosystems that have evolved in the presence of fire, together with the occurrence of other natural and anthropogenic processes, has resulted in the conversion of many grasslands and savannas to woodlands. From an ecological perspective, eliminating fire in areas that evolved with fire inhibits natural processes that limit woody plant expansion and, con- sequently, promotes ecosystem degradation. From an eco- nomic perspective, brush encroachment associated with fire suppression has led to reduced livestock carrying capacity and destruction of property by catastrophic fires that occur when accumulated fuel loads ignite under hot dry conditions. By contrast, research results suggest many ecological and economic benefits to using prescribed fire.1,2 This leaves social constraints as the primary hurdle to applying periodic fire on the landscape.3 Prescribed fire has not been adopted widely as a management and/or restoration tool primarily because of perceived safety and legal concerns.4,5 In this paper we discuss the benefits and risks of using prescribed fire and how prescribed burn asso- ciations have mitigated these risks, resulting in an increase of prescribed fire application, including extreme restoration burns that are ignited under wildfire-like conditions. DOI: 10.2458/azu_rangelands_v34i2_toledo
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Society for Range Management

Rangelands, a publication of the Society for Range Management, serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of facts, ideas, and philosophies pertaining to the study, management, and use of rangelands. The journal features scientific and historical articles as well as Society news. It provides readers with scientifically accurate information in a user-friendly format, placed in context of the world we live in today. Rangelands is a practical (non-technical) counterpart of Rangeland Ecology & Management (formerly the Journal of Range Management). The Global Rangelands collection includes articles from Rangelands up to 3 years from the current year. Access to more recent content is available by subscription from BioOne and the Society for Range Management and may also be available at your local university library. 
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