There are many challenges facing counties during the extreme weather and drought conditions that precipitate a countywide burn ban. However, prudent use of prescribed burning can be an extremely beneficial tool for counties to help mitigate the impact of wildfires, which can devastate communities across this state. Through cooperation and coordination at the landowner and local, state and federal government levels, we can create an opportunity to ensure better communication and understanding of prescribed burning and its benefits to communities during difficult times.
Counties may consider establishing a category of exception for federal and state agencies and institutions of higher education to ensure park and other state managed lands can be adequately managed during burn bans. Additionally, many of these entities conduct research and demonstration projects throughout the year to educate landowners about properly developing a burn plan and conducting a prescribe burn. An exception for these activities would also be useful. Examples of entities include: NRCS, TPWD, TFS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Agri-Life Research.
Counties are also encouraged to utilize state and federal staff expertise when evaluating burn plans if the county does not have the resources to determine if a burn plan meets prescribed burn standards.
Recommended Requirements for Exceptions to a Burn Ban
When possible, criteria for exceptions should be included in the original burn ban order. This is more desirable than amending a burn ban already in place. The burn ban exceptions should be clearly identified in the Commissioners Court Order establishing the burn ban. It is also recommended that the burn ban clearly articulate that the ban does not apply to already exempted activities as outlined in the Chapter 352 of the Local Government Code.
A template should for an individual or group to conduct a prescribed burn within a burn ban should include the minimum requirements necessary, including:
The county should indicate if any specific education or training requirements are necessary for an individual or group to conduct a prescribed burn. Some counties require a specific course of instruction while others may require more specific experience and training requirements. If specific requirements are adopted by the county, the requirements should be included in the county burn ban order.
Written Burn Plan
The county should require a written burn plan prepared by an appropriately trained and experienced individual, association or entity. Examples include but are not limited to: an appropriately trained individual with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Texas Forest Service (TFS), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Agri-Life Extension Service or Texas Agri-Life Research; an individual who holds a private or commercial certified prescribed burn manager license issued by TDA or a local prescribed burn association; or any individual determined by the county to have significant experience in prescribed burning.