Why it Matters: While the dog days of summer may not seem like the ideal time to be thinking about prescribed burning, actions taken now can set the stage for the use of prescribed fire later in the year. For land managers interested in improving wildlife habitat in many parts of the Lower Midwest, this is particularly important. Thanks to the recent passage of bills designed to increase opportunities to implement prescribed fire on private lands in the Lower Midwest, landowners in the region can feel empowered to implement this important practice on their own property.
- Across the Lower Midwest, prescribed burning represents one of the most efficient and cost-effective management practices available to landowners interested in conserving wildlife habitat and native ecosystems.
- In 2021, Missouri passed the Prescribed Burning Act, defining liability standards for private landowners implementing prescribed fire as a management tool.
- Arkansas followed suit in 2023 by passing their own bill defining liability standards, effectively removing one of the most widely cited barriers to the use of prescribed fire on private lands.
For sportsmen and women, particularly those fortunate enough to own their own property, the summer months are arguably the best time to prepare for the hunting seasons that are quickly approaching. While this may conjure images of hanging tree stands and building blinds, land managers also know that this planning must include the actual land management practices designed to promote quality wildlife habitat on their properties. The options available for land management practitioners are virtually endless, but few practices in the Lower Midwest can boast the benefits of prescribed fire.
Whether burning off a dove field ahead of next month’s seasons, preparing the ground for a food plot, or managing the successional stage of what will soon be quality deer, turkey, or small game habitat, prescribed fire is often cited as one of the most efficient and cost-effective active land management practices at our disposal. However, as Uncle Ben once told Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It is the responsibility to implement prescribed fire safely, and the associated liability concerns that come with its use, that has intimidated many of landowners and resulted in the absence of prescribed fire on many properties across the region. Fortunately, thanks to the leadership of National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucus (NASC) members in Arkansas and Missouri, along with the efforts of mission partners across the region to educate their members, many of those concerns can be put to rest.
For example, the 2021 session in Missouri saw then-Freshman, and current Missouri Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair, Representative Tim Taylor lead the passage of Missouri’s Prescribed Burning Act (HB 369) which defined liability standards for landowners and tasked the Missouri Department of Conservation with creating a certification course for Prescribed Burn Managers. Two year later, several members of the Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus led an effort (SB 415) that accomplished a similar goal in the Natural State, largely aligning liability standards across the two states and effectively removing liability concerns from the considerations that landowners must weigh when electing to implement prescribed fire.
While beneficial when applied appropriately, prescribed fires can be dangerous. For landowners interested in implementing prescribed fire on their property, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) recommends that you contact your state fish and wildlife management agency and seek assistance from trained professionals.