Action Alert: Missouri Prescribed Fire Liability Legislation

Missouri Senate Bill 301 (Senator Mike Bernskoetter) and Missouri House Bill 369 (Rep. Tim Taylor) were recently introduced as the Prescribed Burning Act. The companion bills highlight that prescribed burning is a land management tool that benefits the safety of the public, the environment, and the economy of the state of Missouri, while also defining a standard of simple negligence for liability for harm caused by prescribed burning.

Current Missouri law does not clearly define the liability standard for prescribed burning in the state. Prescribed fire is an incredibly effective and economical habitat management tool that can enhance and restore native plant communities, forest health and wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, confusion as to the liability for prescribed burning has resulted in the underutilization of fire as a management tool across Missouri’s private lands.

SB 301 and HB 369 state that no owner of land, agent of an owner, or certified prescribed burn manager shall be liable for damage, injury, or loss caused by a prescribed burning or the resulting smoke of a prescribed burning unless the owner, agent, or manager is proven to be negligent. It is important to note that one WILL be liable if they are negligent, as defined.

The National Deer Association (NDA) is dedicated to ensuring the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat and hunting. Prescribed, controlled fire is an incredibly efficient and effective tool to modify and improve wildlife habitat for wild deer, as well as countless other species. It’s important that land owners and land managers can utilize prescribed fire under clear liability definitions. SB 301 and HB 369 provide these definitions. The bills also provide an incentive to landowners and contractors to seek voluntary prescribed fire training and certification, use a burn plan, and ultimately be more responsible for the burns they conduct.

Please consider joining NDA in supporting the wildlife habitat-supporting provisions found in SB 301 and HB 369. CLICK HERE to contact your lawmakers – let them know you support this important legislation.

About Torin Miller

Torin Miller is a licensed attorney and NDA’s Director of Policy. He works at the intersection of conservation and natural resources law, policy, advocacy and education. He has a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State University, a J.D. from Penn State Law and is finishing a master's degree in wildlife and fisheries science at Penn State. Torin came to NDA via the National Deer Alliance, where he served as the Policy and Outreach Coordinator.