Private Lands and Prescribed Fire

By Arielle Halpern, Ph.D.

I recently attended the 2018 Northern California Prescribed Fire Council meeting here in Mount Shasta. The Northern California Prescribed Fire Council is a forum for diverse stakeholders, including state and federal agencies, practitioners, academic institutions, and tribes, to work collaboratively to share learning and promote the responsible use of prescribed fire in northern California. A number of exciting updates were shared that indicate a huge change coming down the pipeline for private landowners and prescribed fire. Here are some exciting takeaways:

  • Many pieces of legislation including SB 1260 and AB2585 are currently under consideration that will create a mechanism by which parties not affiliated with a state or federal agency can receive prescribed fire certification. This will create a standardized way for private parties to engage in cooperative burning.
  • Many of these pieces of legislation also speak to increasing private landowner access to insurance for conducting prescribed fire and various types of cost and liability sharing agreements.
  • Considerations are underway for treating smoke from prescribed fires in a different way from wildfire smoke. Prescribed fire can be used to reduce the air quality impacts from uncharacteristically large wildfires not to mention that smoke and particulate matter generated during prescribed fires is significantly less than that which is generated during wildfire events.
  • Prescribed Burn Associations: These are local groups of private landowners who work together to implement prescribed fire on each other’s properties. Many midwestern states have successfully implemented and funded these grassroots burning cooperatives and the hope is to increase the number of these organizations in California. In our area, Lenya Quinn-Davidson (U.C. Cooperative Extension, Director NorCal Prescribed Fire Council) has been instrumental in helping to bring many these organizations into being including one in Humboldt County. It is my deep hope that we here in Southern Siskiyou County can work with her to create a Mount Shasta Prescribed Burn Association.

The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center is committed to participating in the responsible, safe reintroduction of fire to support environmental health and ecological resiliency in our exquisite local ecosystems. Please contact us for further information or to see how you can help bring good fire back to Mount Shasta!