NASF, CPRC release national survey on prescribed fire use

The National Association of State Foresters and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils have released a report documenting a 12 percent decrease in the use of prescribed fire on forested acreage nationwide since 2011.

WASHINGTON—The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils (CPFC) have released the findings of their 2018 National Prescribed Fire Use Survey. Conducted every three years, these surveys help encourage the appropriate use of prescribed fire as a means to improve forest health and public safety.

“The National Prescribed Fire Use Surveys are critical to understanding and tracking prescribed burning across the nation, and since 2012, have been among the only means for assessing the specific challenges faced by state forestry agencies in their use of prescribed fire,” said Mark Melvin, CPFC chair. “With the information they provide, we have the means to illustrate the positive effects of using prescribed fire and foster support for its appropriate use as a natural resource management tool.”

The 2018 survey found that 80 percent of the acreage treated with prescribed fire in 2017 was burned to meet forestry objectives (with agriculture prescriptions making up the balance). It also found that the number of prescribed fire councils increased by 40 percent between 2011 and 2017 to a total of 35 councils in 31 states.

“In addition to some steps forward, the latest survey uncovered where we might have taken some steps backward in regards to expanding prescribed fire use,” said Lisa Allen, NASF president and Missouri state forester. “For instance, land mangers treated 1.5 million fewer acres with prescribed fire in 2017 than they did eight years ago and only 14 states increased their prescribed fire activity between 2011 and 2017.”

“This means we have some work to do when it comes to communicating the ecological benefits and cost savings of prescribed fire and equipping our land managers with the tools they need to use it effectively.”

Other survey findings included:

  • While the Southeast led the nation in total acres (7.6 million) burned with “good fire,” the West’s 3.3 million acres represented the only regional increase in prescribed fire use between 2011 and 2017.
  • Nationally, the total acreage burned with prescribed fire in 2017 (11.3 million acres) dropped 12 percent from 12.8 million acres in 2011.
  • For the first time in the history of the survey, some states reported not using prescribed fire at all over the course of 2017.
  • Consistent with previous surveys, the 2018 survey found four states (Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, and Kansas) burned more than 1 million acres annually.
  • Weather, capacity, and air quality/smoke management (in that order) remained the top three impediments for prescribed fire implementation.

For the first time, the 2018 survey also documented the degree of liability as defined in each state’s prescribed fire statute(s), finding that five states have no prescribed fire laws and only seven states have gross negligence laws (the highest degree of liability protection).

Click here to view the full report.

Media Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook at or 202-624-5417


About the National Association of State Foresters
The National Association of State Foresters represents state and territorial forester interests by influencing forest policy and leading efforts to optimize social, economic, and environmental benefits of trees and forests. Learn more at

About the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils
The Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils establishes and maintains a viable coalition of prescribed fire councils by providing encouragement, education, and leadership for the use of prescribed fire. Learn more at

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