Bill to Define Liability Standards for Prescribed Burning Pre-Filed in Missouri

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator

On December 8, Representative-Elect Tim Taylor pre-filed House Bill 369 (HB 369), titled the “Prescribed Burning Act,” ahead of the upcoming 2021 legislative session. HB 369 seeks to formally define the liability standards that landowners must meet when using prescribed fire on their property. Currently, the liability standards for landowners whose use of prescribed fire results in accidental damage to neighboring property are currently undefined in Missouri statute. HB 369 will protect landowners and certified prescribed burn managers, unless the accidental damage is found to be the result of negligence.

Liability concerns are widely cited as a primary reason that landowners are reluctant to use prescribed burning practices on their property. However, the benefits of prescribed fire on wildlife habitat for game (e.g., northern bobwhite and wild turkey) and non-game (e.g., many pollinator and songbird species) wildlife are widely documented. More broadly, the benefits of prescribed burning also include the removal of understory fuels which can reduce the risk of wildfires, the removal of non-native and undesirable plants that are not adapted to fire, and the promotion of native fire-adapted plants that contribute to healthy ecosystems. Given these benefits, it is important to help remove hurdles that may impede the responsible use of prescribed burning.

The Missouri General Assembly considered two bills last year that sought to similarly define the liability standards for prescribed burning. In support of these bills, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a formal letter to all members of the Missouri Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, encouraging their consideration of this important legislation. CSF will continue to support legislation that promotes the responsible use of wildlife management practices on private lands. With more than 90% of Missouri privately owned, active management on private lands will continue to play a critical role in the management of our public trust wildlife resources.

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