Mississippi Society of American Foresters

MS SAF Position Statement on Fire Management

Position:

It is the position of the Mississippi Society of American Foresters that fire is an essential forest management tool to maintain sustainable health of southern pine ecosystems, protect property, and ensure public safety. The use of fire should always be a planned event applied in a responsible manner by qualified professionals. Prescribed burning is an integral part of hazardous fuel reduction, stand density reduction, watershed protection and air quality strategies as developed by private and public agencies. We recognize increasing difficulties with smoke management and growing populations. Operators and responsible forestry agencies are encouraged to cooperate so environmental and societal impacts are minimized.

Background:

Fire is a natural event and is responsible for much of the diversity in our forests. Centuries ago, fires occurred naturally and were set by Native Americans. Human development (e.g., roads, railways) has interrupted the natural course of fire and, more recently, liability has limited its use by man. When allowed to occur naturally, it may drastically alter ecosystems. The exclusion of fire results in excessive buildup of fuels which is exacerbated by downed timber resulting from catastrophic events such as hurricanes and beetle infestations. This makes suppression more difficult, expensive, dangerous, and hazardous to the environment. When fires occur unplanned (i.e., wildfire or arson) they can endanger property, human lives, and alter ecosystems. Hazardous fuels may lead to intense fires that can destroy watersheds, reduce soil productivity and cause erosion and sedimentation. A wildfire of great intensity has more adverse affects on air quality than numerous fires of less intensity. Exclusion should not be confused with suppression, which is essential at certain times and in certain locations to protect property as well as wildlife habitat. When applied in a timely, responsible manner, fire can be used to produce specific, desired results in a natural and economic manner. When prescribed fire is used at regular intervals the results are a healthier environment, more stable forest and wildlife ecosystems, and safer forest-to-urban interfaces that reduce risks to property and human life, and the need for costly wildfire suppression that is often ineffective.

Originally adopted by Mississippi Society of American Foresters (MS SAF) on May 16, 2002 and revised on November 14, 2007. This statement will expire December 31, 2017, unless revised by the MS SAF.