Legislative Step towards Greater Public and Political Acceptance of Prescribed Fire

Photo: norcalrxfirecouncil.org

In July, Assembly Bill No. 1712 passed in the California Legislature expanding the public purpose of prescribed fire on private lands in California.  

Existing California law provides that cooperation by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with a person desiring to use prescribed fire for converting brush-covered lands into forage lands and the prevention of high intensity wildfire, is a public purpose.  

AB 1712 amends the current law to expressly include restoring ecological integrity and resilience, community wildfire protection, carbon resilience and enhancement of culturally important resources as objectives of wildland management goals and therefore a public purpose.  

The bill also expands the description of those seeking permission to use prescribed burning to any person, firm or corporation that controls or owns forest land, woodland, grassland or shrub land within a state responsibility area.  Previously the description limited the type of land for which one can apply for permission to burn to brush-covered land. 

What does this mean?  This means for example, that the Karuk Tribe in northern California can apply for permits to burn around at-risk communities and culturally significant lands to reduce the risk of high intensity wildfire in those sensitive areas. This also means that large landowners can apply for permits to use prescribed fire to increase ecological integrity and resilience such as critical habitat or watershed enhancement. 

Although the bill amendments are small, they represent a significant step towards more public and political acceptance of prescribed fire. The Cohesive Strategy supports the increased use of prescribed fire for these benefits. 

Read the complete bill text here.  (It’s short!)