Public Perspectives of Fire Management
Fuel Treatments & Effects
Despite years of accumulating scientific evidence that fire is critical for maintaining the structure and function of grassland ecosystems in the US Great Plains, fire has not been restored as a fundamental grassland process across broad landscapes. The result has been widespread juniper encroachment and the degradation of the multiple valuable ecosystem services provided by grasslands. Here, we review the social-ecological causes and consequences of the transformation of grasslands to juniper woodlands and synthesize the recent emergence of prescribed burn cooperatives, an extensive societal movement by private citizens to restore fire to the Great Plains biome. We discuss how burn cooperatives have helped citizens overcome dominant social constraints that limit the application of prescribed fire to improve management of encroaching woody plants in grasslands. These constraints include the generally held assumptions and political impositions that all fires should be eliminated when wildfire danger increases.