First Statewide Prescribed Fire Council Established in Texas
AUSTIN, Texas - The leading prescribed fire experts and practitioners from across Texas gathered on August 8, 2019 for the inaugural meeting of the Texas Prescribed Fire Council (TPFC). Led by a newly elected board and a set of recently drafted by-laws, the Council was established to foster cooperation and build capacity for using prescribed fire to manage the state’s iconic landscapes.
The Texas Prescribed Fire Council represents and provides a unified voice for a diverse group of representatives with a common interest in applying prescribed fire to manage natural resources and reduce wildfire risk. Membership includes private landowners, state and federal agency employees, commercial certified prescribed burn managers, and conservation organizations. The Council will provide a forum for these diverse stakeholders to address issues relating to prescribed fire and to work together to increase the capacity and application of prescribed fire as a natural resource management tool.
Last year, these land managers collectively burned more than 350,000 acres of grasslands and forests, only a fraction of recognized landscapes that could benefit from prescribed fire. The new Council’s mission is to advance the use of prescribed fire across the state and build a dynamic and positive fire culture for the benefit of all Texans.
“Every member of the new council knows that what we burn now is just a drop in the bucket compared what we need to do to meet the vast needs of Texas,” said Mort Kothmann, newly elected TPFC Board Chair. “We aim to provide better education and outreach to the public to encourage acceptance for this critical land management tool.”
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and interagency partners burn private lands in Menard County, Texas, under an agreement to benefit monarch butterfly habitat and rangeland ecosystems using funds from a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant. Photo credit: Jeff Adams/USFWS.
Prescribed fire in Texas was first documented in the 16th century by the early explorer Cabeza de Vaca, who wrote about Native Americans “setting fire to the plains and timber” as they hunted game and foraged wild food. Council members recognize that fire remains integral to the health of Texas lands, and that more fire is needed to restore ecological function.
“The absence of fire in these lands has led to shifts in vegetation, so that we now have unhealthy, and at times volatile, natural environments,” said Kothmann. “With careful planning, prescribed fire is the safest and most cost-effective tool for enhancing grazing land productivity, increasing commercial timber production in the eastern pines, improving wildlife and game habitat for outdoor recreation, and reducing
flammable vegetation to protect our communities from catastrophic wildfire.”