The 2015 National Prescribed Fire Use Survey Report was recently released by the National Association of State Foresters and Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils. Take a look at the executive summary:
Prescribed fire activity is complex and poorly understood when evaluated at a national scale. Most often fire complexity is defined by scale, frequency, season, and location in the context of local and state laws and local community acceptance. In an effort to gain better knowledge of prescribed fire use in the United States, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils (CPFC) partnered to conduct and produce the 2015 National Prescribed Fire Use Survey Report. This report is the second of its kind, and is based on the responses from all 50 state forestry agencies. It outlines national and regional prescribed fire activity, state prescribed fire programs, and identifies impediments limiting the use of prescribed fire. The results include all federal, state, and private prescribed fire acres for forestry, rangeland, and agricultural burning that occurred in 2014.
The survey results indicate approximately 11.7 million acres were treated in 2014 with prescribed fire. The majority (76%) was for forestry purposes with the balance related to agriculture. The Southeast accounted for a little over 8 million acres of the total activity and continues to lead the nation in all categories of prescribed fire use. There was no change from the 2012 report with respect to the top three national impediments; however, weather replaced capacity as the number one impediment. Forty percent of states reported weather as the factor most limiting prescribed fire implementation. Further study into weather’s driving factors, such as narrow burn windows versus meeting smoke management concerns, is necessary and would provide additional insight.
One significant finding was an increase in the number of states that offer education and training to certify prescribed fire managers. The number of states increased to 24, a 41% increase over the 2012 report. This is an impressive statistic, and one that will hopefully build capacity of trained fire managers. During the same period, the number of prescribed fire councils grew by 24%, bringing the total to 31 councils in 27 states. Across the country local, state, and regional groups are emerging, leveraging unity and vision, and accomplishing common goals to preserve and restore the use of prescribed fire. The results of the 2015 survey revealed successes over the last three years and identified challenges for the future. It is the ambition of both the NASF and the CPFC that this report will serve the prescribed fire community as a tool to guide future management decisions and actions.