Promoting Prescribed Fire on Private Lands in the Historic Longleaf Range

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2018-04-27

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Abstract

This project examined barriers to prescribed fire implementation on private lands located within the historic longleaf pine landscape. Native to the coastal plain of the southern United States, the longleaf pine ecosystem once covered 90 million acres from southern Virginia to the Texas Gulf coast. Deforestation decimated these forests to a remaining ~5% of the historic range and remaining stands suffer from insufficient management. Longleaf pine is closely adapted to fire and needs prescribed fire, a land management technique that mimics natural processes, to restore ecosystem balance. As 86% of southern forestlands are privately owned (Wear et al. 2013), it is critical to educate and engage individual landowners on the benefits of fire to the longleaf ecosystem.

To shift negative attitudes on prescribed fire, it is important to assess current trends and engage in informational campaigns that can influence behavioral change (Winter et al. 1998). This study conducted a literature review and personal interviews with private landowners and professional forestry consultants in the southern states of Georgia and Mississippi to identify perceived barriers to implementing prescribed fire on private lands within the historic longleaf pine ecosystem. Ultimately, the project sought to identify effective strategies to increase the number of private landowners who are willing to conduct and/or allow controlled burns on their properties.

The project involved interviews with 8 private landowners and 4 private forestry consultants in the states of Georgia and Mississippi. These contacts were identified with the help of the researcher’s project partners at The Nature Conservancy, The Longleaf Alliance and The Mississippi Forestry Association. The personal interview approach utilized by this study looked for real world examples of how impediments to prescribed fire play out on the ground for private landowners and forestry consultants alike.

The study found that the three most common motivations for burning are enhancing biological diversity, deriving income from the land, and the influence of neighbors. The most common impediments to burning were smoke management concerns, fear of an escaped fire or wildfire, absentee landowners, a lack of capacity for burning, and the expense of burning. As a result of these findings the study issues recommendations around lessening smoke management concerns, addressing a lack of burning capacity, and helping to resolve private landowners’ fears of wildfires in order to ultimately implement more prescribed burning on private lands in the South.

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Vacek, Lindsay (2018). Promoting Prescribed Fire on Private Lands in the Historic Longleaf Range. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/16577.


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