Position Statements

Use of Prescribed Fire in Forest Management 

Purpose

To clarify the increasingly complex opportunities and challenges associated with the use of prescribed fire for specific forest management outcomes, including: (1) fuels management and associated wildland fire risk reduction, and (2) ecosystem restoration and maintenance for sustaining our nation’s forest resources.

Scope

The purposeful use of fire across land ownership classifications, where planned and approved, including both manager-ignited burning practices and the use of wildland fire as permitted under pre-determined operational plans.

Position

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) supports and promotes the expanded use of prescribed fire in meeting multiple forest management objectives associated with wildfire risk reduction, ecological restoration and maintenance, and sustainable production of goods and services. Fire has played a fundamental role in North American landscapes, including forests, for millennia. Today, prescribed fire is an important part of our forest management “toolbox” in meeting multiple landowner objectives, including: (1) reducing fuels and mitigating associated wildfire risk in both post-harvest and older stands; (2) helping prepare sites for artificial and natural regeneration following harvest; (3) regulating forest vegetation composition and structure over time, including invasive and exotic species; and (4) stimulating broad ecosystem responses through the disturbance itself (e.g., nutrient cycling and hydrology) and subsequent stand and environmental conditions (e.g., vigor and insect/disease resistance, and habitat quality). SAF supports the policies and funding for the research and workforce development needed to implement prescribed fire consistently and safely. Prescribed fires must be planned by trained and experienced professionals who document measurable objectives, prescribe details for achieving those objectives, implement effectiveness monitoring, and have accountability for results; federal agencies must appropriately disclose their analyses of prescribed fire effects in public documents.

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