Perceptions of Texas landowners regarding fire and its use
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Growing recognition that periodic fire is critical for maintaining the health of many rangeland ecosystems and concerns over more frequent catastrophic wildfires have focused attention on prescribed fire as an ecosystem restoration and fuel management tool. In states such as Texas, where most land is privately owned, the level of success of outreach activities aimed at expanding the adoption of specific management practices is influenced by the extent to which landowners' perceptions, interests, and concerns regarding such practices are addressed. This is particularly important for prescribed fire, which has been perceived by many landowners to be a dangerous or wasteful practice. Here we report the results of a mail survey of 185 members of the Edwards Plateau Prescribed Burn Association (EPPBA) and a random sample of 600 nonmember rural landowners in four counties in the Edwards Plateau and two counties in the Rolling Plains ecoregions of Texas. The overall response rate was 46.6%. Primary reasons respondents did not apply fire on their land were insufficient resources, legal concerns, and lack of assistance with burn plan development. EPPBA members had more positive attitudes than nonmembers about the ecological role of fire and the use of prescribed fire. Our study suggests that adoption of prescribed burning as an integral part of land management plans by private landowners could be expanded by forming new prescribed burning associations. The EPPBA model for such associations provides learning opportunities that are consistent with adult learning and innovation adoption principles. It facilitates fire safety training, reduces concerns over legal liability associated with fire ignition, and enhances access to shared fire management equipment and labor on burn days. The two-tiered structure of the EPPBA with some form of statelevel representation appears to be an efficient organizational structure for these associations.