Forest Service Change Promotes Use of Prescribed Fires

The U.S. Forest Service yesterday proposed a new prohibition for starting and negligently failing to maintain control of a prescribed fire; proof of criminal negligence would be required for this offense. USFS also proposed to clarify that the prohibition for causing and failing to maintain control of all other fires is a strict liability offense that doesn't require proof of criminal intent.

In implementing the National Fire Plan, the service has encouraged adjacent landowners to develop integrated fire management plans that allow prescribed fires. Without the proposed changes, adjacent landowners might be discouraged from using prescribed fire, USFS said. It is accepting comments until June 1.

USFS said distinguishing between failure to maintain control of a prescribed fire (requiring proof of criminal negligence) and another fire (requiring no proof of criminal intent) "is necessary to support efforts to reduce hazardous fuels on properties adjacent to National Forest System lands. These efforts are intended to restore ecosystems and, by doing so, protect communities in the wildland urban interface." Abigail R. Kimball, chief of the Forest Service, signed the Federal Register notice.

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