Planning a Prescribed Burn

Posted in

If you are considering burning rangeland for the first time, you may think that a detailed planning process seems largely unnecessary. You may be thinking:

“I’ll wait until after frost and burn out the southwest 40 acres of the back pasture. If I burn when there’s no wind, I won’t need any help. I can drive the cows to the other side of the Section Pasture and shoot a gun a few times to scare out the deer so they won’t burn up. And the belly-high broomweeds should burn hot enough to kill most of the mesquite, whitebrush, and prickly pear.”

Wait a minute—this thinking contains at least eight misconceptions, including those dealing with timing, wind, help, fuel, expected brush kill, grazing management, the size of the burn, and its impact on wildlife habitat. If you burned using this plan, you would probably never burn rangeland again on purpose because of the risks taken and the potential for disappointing results.

Effective planning well in advance is vital for achieving the beneficial effects of a prescribed burn. The elements of a plan are described in Extension publication E-37, Prescribed Range Burning in Texas, which is available from your county Extension agent or on the web at

This publication from Texas A&M Agrilife Extension contains more information and a checklist to use when planning a prescribed burn.