Monday, July 25, 2011

New Association to Help Simplify Prescribed Burning

A new association has been formed to provide landowners and state prescribed burn associations with an organization that can assist them with liability insurance, finding funding for equipment and training, and a voice for prescribed burning throughout the state.

The Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association (OPBA) was formed through a three-year Conoco-Phillips challenge grant from the Playa Lakes Joint Venture through the High Plains Resource and Conservation District. Ron Voth is the executive director of this first of its kind organization to assist landowners with all aspects of prescribed burning.

Prescribed burning is a useful and important habitat management tool employed to remove accumulated litter, encourage new vegetative growth and to control excessive invasion of brush and woody cover. Native rangelands that are burned periodically have a wider diversity of plants that are beneficial to wildlife than unburned prairies. Wildlife such as quail benefit from burns because they increase mobility by removing ground level clutter, attract greater density and diversity of insects used by quail chicks as food and increase the ability of birds to feed on those insects.

The primary goal of the OPBA is to become the umbrella organization for landowners and local prescribed burn associations to receive reasonably priced liability insurance for conducting prescribed burns. Through the OPBA, the insurance will be available to burn association members at an affordable rate. The insurance covers escaped fires, suppression costs, injury to people assisting with the burn, and problems caused by smoke. A five-member board of directors has been formed to assist with the development of this organization. Members include Alva Gregory, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; Darrel Dominick, Oklahoma Conservation Commission; Paul Clark, Natural Resource Conservation Service; Karsen Davis, Roger Mills Prescribed Burn Association; and John Weir, NREM, Oklahoma State University.

There will be a minimal annual fee, and a charge for each burn the landowner would like to have insured. There will be some requirements for each burn, which are currently being developed by the association and the insurance company.

The OPBA is currently conducting a survey of landowners throughout the state to get information on the number of landowners that would be interested in joining a prescribed burn association and if they are interested in the liability insurance. The survey can be found at the Oklahoma Prescribed Fire Council website Click on "Burn Associations" and send the completed survey to Ron Voth at the address listed.