June 19, 2024

Texas A&M Forest Service distributes grant funds for prescribed burns

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Landowners around the Texas Panhandle and High Plains region, as well as the rest of the state, will be able to apply for grants to conduct prescribed burns throughout the year in the interest of conserving the land and minimizing pests, diseases, and wildfire spread.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, those interested apply for the grants during the autumn season and are awarded between October and December, with burns typically conducted from January through June. For the 2024 fiscal year, the agency awarded 126 grant recipients and approved more than $705,000 in grant funds to private landowners in Texas with a goal to treat 25,104 acres.

The grant funding focused on private landowners stands as one of the pillars of conservation within Texas, noted the agency, because 95% of land in the state is privately owned. Through the prescribed fire grant programs, the agency said it works to strengthen the conservation network by offering resources and funding to landowners and land managers for prescribed burns.

As described by the Forest Service, prescribed burns are a strategic land management tool that uses low-intensity fire on a specific area of land to achieve certain goals, and has proven effective and efficient for decreasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires by reducing the presence of fuels.

“If forests and land are left unmanaged, the buildup of leaves, twigs and underbrush significantly increases the chances of larger, more uncontrollable wildfires in that area,” said Andy McCrady, Texas A&M Forest Service Program Coordinator. “That is why it is a top priority of ours to connect Texas landowners and managers with grant dollars and agency resources. Through our efforts with this program, more Texas land can be safely and effectively treated with prescribed fire.”

The Forest Service noted that community protection is a significant benefit of prescribed fire, but the Texas ecosystem is also helped by adding to the development of resilient landscapes, encouraging native species growth, improving soil health, benefiting wildlife, and minimizing pests and diseases.

“Prior to settlement in Texas, wildfires occurred naturally on the landscape,” said McCrady. “Our ecosystems relied on fires for regulation. We believe in treating our lands with prescribed fire when it is safe and relevant to do so, as we know it will restore the normal, natural and essential process for the land.”

The agency described that it offers four grants to landowners to complete prescribed fires, which reimburse landowners up to $30 per acre for a maximum of 800 acres per recipient. The four grants include:

  • The State Fire Assistance for Mitigation – Plains Prescribed Fire grant, for residents of the Panhandle and West Texas;
  • The Community Protection Program grant for residents of East and Central Texas;
  • The State fire Assistance for Mitigation – Central and East Texas grant; and
  • The Neches River and Cypress Basin Watershed Restoration Program – Prescribed Fire grant.

The agency further noted that the prescribed burns are not performed by the Forest Service itself on those private lands, but rather are conducted by a private or commercial Certified and Insured Burn Manager. Following the burn, management goals and the ecosystem are monitored by McCrady and his team. According to McCrady, the landscape recovers quickly from prescribed burning.

“Prescribed burning in Texas is most often conducted in the winter or spring during mild weather conditions,” said McCrady. “Within a few weeks, these sites will show green shoots of new growth and by the end of the growing season native grasses, wildflowers and more palatable browse have replaced the overgrown brush and litter, all of which will increase wildlife value and make for the beautiful Texas landscape we all love.”

Further information on prescribed burning, burning safety, benefits and more can be found online here, and more information on grants provided by the agency can be found here.

For the latest Amarillo news and regional updates, check with MyHighPlains.com and tune in to KAMR Local 4 News at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. and Fox 14 News at 9:00 p.m. CST.

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