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Phillipa C. McCormack, Rebecca K. Miller, Jan McDonald
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Policy & Law
Fire & Climate
Prescribed Fire-use treatments

NRFSN number: 26220
Record updated:


Prescribed fire is a critical tool for building resilience to changing fire regimes. Policymakers can accelerate the development of effective, adaptation-oriented fire governance by learning from other jurisdictions.


We analyse reforms to prescribed fire governance to highlight improvements for fire hazard reduction and resilience.


We searched legislative registers in New South Wales (NSW), Australia and California, United States, identifying Bills tabled between 2011 and 2022 that mention the terms ‘prescribed (fire or burn)’ or ‘controlled (fire or burn)’. We reviewed the eight relevant Bills from NSW and 67 Bills from California to identify and thematically code reforms relevant to private landowners.

Key results

We found three primary themes across relevant legislative proposals: (1) reforms to simplify permitting and regulatory approval processes (primarily in Australia); (2) efforts to mitigate the risk of legal liability for escaped burns (primarily in California); and (3) recent recognition of and support for cultural burns (primarily in California).


Expanding prescribed burning on private land remains an ongoing challenge in NSW and California but recent reforms indicate greater attention, and jurisdiction-specific approaches, to this challenge.


Despite differing governance arrangements, California and NSW offer important insights for improving climate-adaptive governance of prescribed fire.

Keywords: California, climate adaptation, fire hazard mitigation, governance, law reform, New South Wales, prescribed fire, private land, responsibility.


McCormack PC, Miller RK, and McDonald J. 2024. Prescribed burning on private land: reflections on recent law reform in Australia and California, International Journal of Wildland Fire 33, WF22213.

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