Officials Reconsider Burn Limit

Heeding a public outcry over the deregulation of grass burning, Spokane County officials Thursday agreed to reconsider a proposal to lift a cap on how many acres farmers can torch each year.

The Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority, a county agency monitoring air quality and enforcing air pollution laws, said it will conduct a public workshop late this month or in early July to determine what rules should be applied to the practice of grass burning.

The decision represents a turn from SCAPCA’s earlier plan to eliminate a cap on the acres that grass farmers can burn to kill weeds and diseases and stimulate future crop yields. About 25,000 acres were burned last year.

The change also opens the possibility that SCAPCA could retain the authority to reduce the number of burn acres, or eliminate burning altogether. State legislators in April narrowed SCAPCA’s power to restrict burn days, leaving farmers to manage field burning smoke voluntarily.

Grass growers favor lifting the cap on acres burned because it frees them to quickly plant more grass when lawn seed prices go up, or when they need to reduce soil erosion on hillsides and other fragile lands.

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