Georgia’s Smoke Management Plan (SMP) is the State’s basic framework of procedures and requirements for managing smoke from prescribed fires. Prescribed burning is the controlled application of fire to existing vegetative fuels to accomplish planned land management objectives or to mitigate catastrophic wildfires. Prescribed burning is a land management and resource protection tool used for Georgia’s forest lands. It helps protect lives and property by reducing accumulations of forest fuels. Prescribed burning is also important for forest regeneration, improving wildlife habitat, and recovering imperiled species. In 2011, Georgia had 27,513 prescribed fires which affected 1,225,295 acres.
Georgia’s SMP was developed in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Interim Air Quality Policy on Wildland and Prescribed Fires” and the draft EPA guidance document, “Elements of a Smoke Management Program”. The purpose of the SMP is to allow fire to function in its natural role in maintaining healthy wildland ecosystems while protecting public health and welfare by mitigating the impacts of air pollutants from prescribed fires on air quality and visibility.
The SMP is also a necessary component in determining exceptional events related to prescribed burning. In order for emissions from a prescribed fire to qualify as an exceptional event, the EPA has stated that a state must demonstrate that a certified SMP was in place at the time of the event, or the state must ensure that the burner employs basic smoke management practices. The SMP is also an element of Georgia’s.
The Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Wildlife Resources Division, and Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Environmental Protection Division signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement the SMP on July 11, 2008. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Forestry Commission are cooperatively responsible for administering the SMP.