Fire Management


The Balcones Canyonlands NWR Fire Program is dedicated to protecting life, property and resources from wildland fire. It is also an important tool used to manage habitat for the benefit of black-capped vireos, golden-cheeked warblers and other wildlife species.

Prescribed Fire & Wildlife Habitat:  

The goal of burning is to enhance wildlife habitat while reducing the possibility of damaging wildfires. Fire suppression combined with herbivory by livestock and white-tailed deer have changed the landscape from vast areas of prairie and oak-juniper to juniper-dominated woodlands. Fire suppression is a major factor in the black-capped vireo's decline.  

Prescribed burning of grasslands kills Ashe juniper and helps reclaim the oak shinneries and grasslands.  It reduces the accumulation of hazardous fuels and promotes the growth of native trees and plants that have evolved with fire. Prescribed burning, under an approved plan with adequate resources, is the best way to prevent loss from wildfire while improving habitat for our area’s unique endangered species. 

Balcones Canyonlands introduced a controlled burn program in 1997 and has burned a total of 19,011 acres on the refuge. All burns are conducted using plans developed by qualified and experienced fire management professionals. Through cooperative efforts between private landowners and the refuge, 10 prescribed burns were completed for 1,283 acres on private lands. These burns on private lands accomplish the same objectives and the cooperative efforts continue to increase every year.

Though smoke from burns is visible from surrounding communities, fire management staff at Balcones monitor weather and fuel conditions to ensure that burns achieve the best results with minimum smoke impact on local residents. 

Combined with mechanical brush reduction, burning benefits the area by opening habitat lost to invasive vegetation and removing potentially hazardous wildfire fuels. The refuge management plans include continuing prescribed burns on established fire units on a rotational basis while adding additional areas that will benefit from fire introduction.

Helpful Links:
Texas Interagency Coordination Center
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Interagency Fire Center
National Wildfire Coordinating Group
Southern Area Coordination Center
Southwest Coordination Center