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New EPA Particulate Matter Standards May Affect The Use of Prescribed Fire in Georgia

Updated: Jun 27



This past February, the EPA adopted a revision of the Clean Air Act which lowers the permissible atmospheric particulate matter (PM) by 2.5 standards. Particulate matter is released from many sources including power plants, factories, emissions from cars and trucks, farming practices, and fires – both wild and prescribed.  The EPA currently estimates that 112 counties nationally (including numerous counties in Georgia) will not meet the new PM 2.5 standard of 9 microns. Policy experts are concerned that since prescribed fire is easier to restrict than other sources of particulate matter, counties with higher particulate levels will refuse to issue new burn permits to stay in compliance with the new EPA standard. This could stifle efforts to get more prescribed fire on the ground nationwide, including in the state of Georgia, the nation’s leader in prescribed burns.


Oconee River Land Trust believes that prescribed fire is a crucial tool for land management. Prescribed fires enable fire-adapted species to thrive, improve wildlife habitat, and help to maintain pollinator habitat. Regular controlled burns also reduce the frequency of devastating wildfires which release far more particulates into the atmosphere than regular controlled burns do, and they are an ecologically healthier way to manage woody undergrowth in pine plantations than repeated blanket herbicide applications. For each of these reasons, we are very concerned about the potential impact the EPA’s new standard will have on the practice of prescribed burning.


We've linked below to a few handouts from Tall Timbers, recognized as a leader in the study of fire ecology and an advocate for landowners’ right to use prescribed fire. If you’d like more information about the benefits of prescribed fire or how to get started managing your land with fire, feel free to contact Tall Timbers or the Georgia Forestry Commission directly. 


We are hoping that the new EPA legislation will not negatively impact the practice of prescribed burning, or at least not impact it as much as we fear it might. We’ll keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds. 



Tall_Timbers_PM_2.5_Overview_4.24.24_NF_FINAL
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Download PDF • 382KB


GALT_May_14_2024_NeilFleck
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Download PDF • 3.34MB

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