Georgia approves certified burner reciprocity agreement

Feb 13, 2024

Certified prescribed fire practitioners in a dozen states can now burn in Georgia thanks to a reciprocity agreement by the state forestry agency.

The policy change by the Georgia Forestry Commission is a step forward in getting more fire on the ground, expanding training opportunities and stemming concerns over landowner liability that can exclude fire from the landscape.

Certified burners in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia are eligible to apply for the reciprocal agreement in Georgia.

The idea to recognize burn certifications across state lines came out of a Tri-State Fire Leadership Summit at Tall Timbers in 2023 that included forestry and wildlife officials from Florida, Georgia and Alabama and federal National Resource Conservation Service leadership.

But the agreement took the forward thinking of Georgia State Forester Tim Lowrimore, GFC Deputy Director John Sabo and Wildland Fire Specialist Ken Parker, said Tall Timbers Private Lands Fire Initiative Director John McGuire.

“This makes it a little bit easier to get certification and maintain certification in different states,” McGuire said. “It’s a common-sense solution to facilitating more contractors burning in different regions.”

Recognizing certifications from multiple states can provide training consistency sought by the insurance industry as it navigates landowner liability connected to prescribed burns.

“One of the challenges with insurance companies is they’re trying to find the gold standard in training,” McGuire said. “Now they can say OK there’s reciprocity and they’re all the gold standard. Fire is pretty much the same no matter where you are within reason what was really different was the state laws.”

The agreement is sure to result in more application of prescribed fire throughout the state of Georgia, Parker wrote in an email announcing the agreement.

“The Ga. Forestry Commission is working to increase the opportunities landowners have to get their property burned.  By opening up the Georgia certification program to certified burners from other states we are looking to increasing the choices landowners have,” Parker said.

The Peach State currently burns about 1.3 million acres annually. That needs to be somewhere around 4 million to ensure a healthy ecosystem, Parker wrote.

“By allowing these out of State certified burners to come into Georgia, our hope is that this will give landowners more access to assistance in getting their property burned,” he said.

Certified burners can find the application through the Georgia Forestry Commission website and mail it in to join the reciprocity agreement.

About the Author
Karl Etters
A Tallahassee native, Karl has a background in journalism and an even deeper background in exploring North Florida's wild spaces. Merge the two, and he's Tall Timbers' communication coordinator. When he's not spending time with family and friends, he can be found fly fishing, hunting, biking or walking the woods looking for turkeys.
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