LDAF Forester, Jay Meadows, guiding a teacher participant with a drip torch during a prescribed burn demonstration.
Background: In 1993, the Louisiana State Legislature passed Act No. 589 authorizing the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) to implement and administer the Louisiana Certified Prescribed Burner program. The statute states:
The application of prescribed burning is a land management tool that benefits the safety of the public, the environment and the economy of Louisiana. Pursuant thereto, the legislature finds that: Prescribed burning reduces naturally produced on-site vegetative fuels within wild land areas. Reduction of the fuel load reduces the risk and severity of major catastrophic wildfire, thereby reducing the threat of loss of life and property, particularly in rural and urbanizing areas.
Prior to the law being instituted, anyone conducting a prescribed burn was considered to be involved in an inherently hazardous ctivity according to state law. As such, if any damage was linked to the burn, the burner was automatically at fault and liable for the damages. Act No. 589 identified and defined a Certified Prescribed Burner and instructed LDAF to conduct the needed training for burners to meet the standards to be identified as a Certified Prescribed Burner. The Act further stated that Certified Prescribed Burners are held to the same standards of proof of negligence in court as other professionals.
Why is prescribed burning important? Most of Louisiana’s natural communities require periodic fire for maintenance of their ecological integrity. Prescribed burning is essential to the perpetuation, restoration and management of many plant and animal communities. On range land, coastal marshland, agricultural and forest land, prescribed burning improves the quality and quantity of herbaceous vegetation important for livestock production and wildlife habitat and aids in the harvest of sugarcane.
Why is training and certification important? Proper training in the use of prescribed burning is necessary to ensure maximum benefits and protection for the public. As Louisiana’s population continues its expansion into rural areas, pressures from liability issues and nuisance complaints inhibit the use of prescribed burning. The certification provides liability protection if a burn plan is followed.
How do you become a prescribed burner? To meet the standards for identification as a Certified Prescribed Burner, an individual must: 1) Have received either formal or “on the job” training in prescribed burning. (Formal courses are taught by the LSU Cooperative Extension Service: www.lsuagcenter.com.) And 2), have conducted five burns as the supervising professional. These standards include:
Contact your area forestry agent for more details or to find out when scheduled workshops will be conducted in your area.
Longleaf burn demonstration in Tangipahoa Parish.
AgCenter and LDAF personnel checking perimeter in St. Helena Parish after a field day burn workshop.
New growth emerges one week after a prescribed burn in Tangipahoa Parish.