Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why it matters: While the old classroom lessons featuring Smokey Bear may have led to a misunderstanding of the importance of prescribed fire, a new era of land conservation has seen the practice emerge with renewed support. As one of the most efficient and cost-effective land management practices, prescribed fire represents a critical tool in the conservationist’s toolbelt.
Last week, the state of Illinois celebrated Prescribed Burning Awareness Week, recognizing the important role of prescribed fire in supporting the conservation of the Prairie State. The Illinois General Assembly joined the celebration by adopting both House Resolution 754 and Senate Resolution 943 which formally recognized the week of April 11 through April 15 as Prescribed Burning Awareness Week in the state of Illinois.
Prescribed fire is widely recognized by sportsmen and women as one of the most efficient and cost-effective land management tools available to conservationists. This stems from the ability of prescribed fire to improve forest health, control invasive species, and provide quality wildlife habitat for a variety of species, including many species that are especially important to sportsmen and women like white-tailed deer, Wild Turkey, and Northern Bobwhite. However, there are others who are less familiar with these benefits and often do not understand that fire can be good.
Herein lays the importance of activities like Illinois’ Prescribed Burning Awareness Week. Thanks to historic messaging, including the often-misquoted teachings of a certain flat-hat-wearing bear, all fires were – and in some cases still are – considered to be bad. In fact, if you remember Smokey’s saying as “Only YOU can prevent forest fires,” you would actually be mistaken, or at least about twenty years behind the times.
It is our duty as conservationists to explain that all fires are not inherently bad. In fact, when properly used, evidence continues to show that prescribed burning actually reduces the risk of dangerous and destructive wildfires, leading to the growing use of the expression “good fires prevent bad ones.” CSF applauds the Illinois General Assembly’s adoption of HR 754 and SR 943 and encourages other states to continue promoting the safe and responsible use of prescribed fire.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?