Fire has been an important part of our environment for millions of years, like sunshine and rain. These three factors shape and define the landscape in which we live. From deserts to forests to grasslands, fire, or its absence, has historically played a key role.
Fire has helped shape the habitat in Texas today. Plants and animals have different responses to fire. Some respond favorably while others are sensitive and do not tolerate fire well. In a fire dependent system like ours, fire is an essential natural process that plants and animals depend on for growth and reproduction. Without fire, fire sensitive plants like certain brush species expand dramatically.
Governmental policies have minimized the number of wild fires occurring naturally. Programs like Smokey Bear have been enormously successful, but have had the negative effect of converting native grass lands and savannas to dense pine forests or thick stands of brush with little grass or forbs. These changes have degraded habitat needed by fire-dependent plants and animals, and have resulted in unnaturally severe and dangerous wild fires in parts of the US, including Texas. In South Texas, brush management has become one of the most significant and expensive challenges for both wildlife managers and cattlemen.
Prescribed burning follows guidelines that establish the conditions and manner under which fire will be applied on a carefully defined area to accomplish very specific management and ecological objectives. The focus is always on safe and effective burning and on achieving pre-planned goals related to the habitat involved. Wildfires, on the other hand, are by definition uncontrolled and often occur under the most hazardous conditions, causing damage to both property and the environment. Prescribed burning reduces or removes excess fuel loads and helps prevent wildfire.
Prescribed burning helps restore the natural balance of nature in a safe and calculated way. Prescribed burning associations result in the increased use of fire and make it easier and safer for land and wildlife managers to employ it.
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