Regulation and practice of forest-management fires on private lands in the southeast United States: Legal open burns versus certified prescribed burns
Forest-management burns have been widely acknowledged as a useful land-management tool in the United States. Nevertheless, fire is inherently risky and may lead to severe damages or create smoke that affects public health. Past research has not explored the difference in policy and practice between open burns, which meet minimum legal criteria, and certified prescribed burns, which follow a higher standard of care. This study seeks to understand the distinction between legal open burns and certified prescribed burns, and, furthermore, to identify trends by type of burn in the Southeast United States. To that end, we compared statutes, regulations, incentives, and notifications of fire as a forest-management tool among nine states in the US Southeast. We found no steady time trends in number or area of burns among the states for the past decade. A nontrivial proportion of legal open burns, which tend to be smaller burns, are noncertified burns, meaning they meet minimum legal requirements, but not the higher standard required for certified prescribed burns.