Date of Award
Master of Science
Fire in Midwestern ecosystems historically has provided many benefits, including promoting forest succession, maintaining wildlife habitat and reducing fuel loads. The Southeastern Illinois Prescribed Burn Association (SIPBA) is the only association of its kind in southern Illinois, designed to reintroduce prescribed fire to landowners in a practical context. The objectives of this research project were: 1) Interview members and crewpersons to collect data on the formation, maintenance, and future of SIPBA, 2) Outline the most common/salient issues driving landowners and stakeholders concerning the use of prescribed fire on their land in southern Illinois, and 3) Provide a conceptual model of the results to serve as a guide for future development of publicly conducted and implemented prescribed burning activities across southern Illinois and, ultimately, the Midwest. This study was implemented by semi-structured interviews of 28 key members of SIPBA. The responses from this population were collected and coded using NVivo 9 qualitative analysis software (NVivo 9 2011). Results indicate that challenges include stubborn remnants of the "Smokey Bear" attitude from the U.S. Forest Service anti-fire campaign, and that liability for an escaped wildfire is a reality for both the individual and for the association. In spite of these and other challenges identified by participants, landowners see SIPBA as a cost-effective solution to their land management needs. The results were interpreted as guidance for future dialogue between landowners and stakeholders and state and federal agencies in implementing prescribed burning programs. Implications include: "fire sells itself." Relatively little effort is needed to attract interest and recruit membership, and the benefits of a prescribed burn are easily evident. Alleviating concerns of the risks associated with fire is a primary objective for the organization, and there is a feeling of "safety in numbers" among membership. Finally, outside funding appears to be the limiting factor for both the capacity and potentially the longevity of the association, meaning that the development of a sustainable funding scheme could allow prescribed burn associations to remain in the Midwest. This case study of SIPBA membership is intended to facilitate cooperation between landowners and local burn associations, and also to serve as a model for the formation of future associations in similar areas of the Midwest.
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