by Brooke Widmar, Conservation Chair
Prescribed burns are an important management tool for many Missouri landscapes, and specifically for many bird habitats. Ground nesting birds and their offspring need open space on the ground for movement, and if there is too much thatch buildup, that will limit their ability to move around. There are countless other benefits to prescribed burns, including helping native plants thrive, which provide food for Missouri birds. Private landowners, non-profits, and government agencies can all benefit from using these burn practices, but Missouri is one of a few states that does not have liability
standards in state statute relating to prescribed burns. This makes it hard for these groups to find reasonable insurance coverage, and some landowners will forgo this important management tool for fear of potential liability issues. For the last few legislative sessions, the Nature Conservancy of Missouri, Missouri Prescribed Fire Council (MPFC), and other advocacy groups have been working to pass bills to change this. According to the MPFC, defining liability and negligence in legislation will allow insurance companies to offer policies providing protection to prescribed fire practitioners. This does not remove liability altogether.
In the 2020 legislative session, the House and Senate bills held hearings and saw positive movement, but when COVID-19 hit, these bills and many others were stalled and didn’t progress any further. In the 2021 legislative session, there are bills in the house and senate again, and YOU can show your support for them by contacting your senators and representatives. Use the Conservation Federation of Missouri’s Legislative Action Center, and when you type in your address, it will connect you with a direct way to message your legislators. Learn more and take action here
Learn more about these important bills with this MPFC fact sheet