The Georgia Forestry Commission: Protecting the Environment One Burn Permit at a Time

Georgia's burn permit to burn leaves

Have you ever burnt a pile of leaves?

Have you ever burnt a pile of leaves on your lawn?

Maybe it was during the fall. Your lawn was covered with hundreds of orange and brown leaves. And you had to get rid of them somehow. Burning them just made sense.

So, you raked them all up into a pile. Poured some gasoline on it, and then lit a match.

But, before you can light up the trouble that’s been plaguing your yard, your neighbor walks up.

“Hey, you know that you have to get a burn permit to burn those leaves right?”

“From the neighborhood association?” you ask.

“No…” he says, “from the local government.”

“Why the heck do I have to get a permit to burn a pile of leaves?” you ask, obviously frustrated by your neighbor’s answer.

“I don’t know why, it’s the government, man.” He replies back, showing his own confusion with it all.

Now, you’re probably laughing a little at this. A burn permit? You’ve got to be kidding me.

This is no joke. This is real. This is Georgia for you.

Yep, my own state. The place I call home, requires its residents to get a permit before burning anything in their yards.

This lovely policy is a part of the Georgia Forestry Commission, whose stated mission is to “provide leadership, service and education in the protection and conservation of Georgia’s forest resources.”

Then there’s the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Their “Air Protection Branch” (located in the Environmental Protection Division of the department) has established a burn ban from May to September.

Let’s focus on this burn ban for a moment…

Georgia’s Burn Ban

Enacted May 1, of this year, by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, its goal is to maintain a healthy environment for Georgians. As stated in the press release…

Citizens are reminded that these rules are in place for a reason – and the reason is health. Smoke from fires contains chemicals and pollutants that may negatively impact a person’s health. Burning yard waste releases nitrogen oxides and particle pollution into the air. Both pollutants can contribute to lung and heart disease. [emphasis added]

The rest of the press release goes on to mention the dangers of smoke, ground-level ozone and inflammation. Typical government “health” concerns.

The ban applies to 54 counties. It limits the amount of legal burn types down to 5 (from 13). The 5 legal burn types are…

  • Agricultural Procedures for Production or Harvesting of Crops
  • Recreational Purposes and Cooking
  • Fire-fighting Training
  • Open-flame Devices
  • Packaging Materials for Explosives

As you can notice, leaf burning isn’t included. In fact, all forms of yard burning are excluded.

You can kiss burning that leaf pile goodbye. Thanks government for ruining all the fun.

Georgia’s Open Burning Rule

Remember those 5 burn types that are legal during Georgia’s summer burn ban? Those are a part of 13 legal burn types that make up Georgia’s Open Burning policy.

Open burning is defined as “any outdoor fire from which the products of combustion are emitted directly into the outdoor air without passing through a stack, chimney, or duct.”

The 13 burn types that make up this “open burning” policy are…

  1. Reduction of leaves on the premises on which they fall by the person in control of the premises, unless prohibited by local ordinance and/or regulation.
  2. Carrying out recognized agricultural procedures necessary for production or harvesting of crops.
  3. The “prescribed burning” of any land by the owners or the owner’s designee.
  4. [reserved] (whatever that means)
  5. For recreational purposes or cooking food for immediate human consumption.
  6. Fires set for purposes of training fire-fighting personnel when authorized by the appropriate governmental entity.
  7. Acquired structure burns provided that an Authorization to Burn certificate has been issued by the Division.
  8. Disposal of vegetative debris from storm damage.
  9. For weed abatement, disease, and pest prevention.
  10. Operation of devices using open flames such as tar kettles, blow torches, welding torches, portable heaters and other flame-making equipment.
  11. Open burning for the purpose of land clearing or construction or right-of-way maintenance provided the following conditions are met:
  12. Disposal of all packaging materials previously containing explosives, in accordance with U.S. Department of Labor Safety Regulations.
  13. Open burning of vegetative material for the purpose of land clearing.

For each of these allowed burn types you need a burn permit. The Georgia government tells you what type of things you can burn, but then requires you to tell them which legal burn you’re going to do.

I’d say the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has some control freaks in their ranks.

Georgia’s Burn Permits

So the government limits your ability to burn materials. But, to add insult to injury, they require you to get a permit to burn the 13 legal burn types legally.

Let me repeat that again…

You have to get a permit to burn the 13 legal burn types legally.

Isn’t that redundant? You have to get a permit to make something that’s legal, legal.

That’s the government for you. But look on the bright side, at least the permits are free.

However, restrictions do apply.

You can only burn from 8:00am till dark. Fires have to be extinguished before dark. You can’t burn tires, shingles, plastics, lumber, household garbage, and the like. Burn piles can’t be bigger than six by six feet. The permit is only good for the day it was issued. And, you can’t burn off your lawn.

…party poopers.

What’s Wrong With This Policy?

Let me outline the main issues with this particular policy first…

  • It violates your private property
  • It’s nannyism at its core
  • It’s a victimless crime

Why Does it Violate Your Private Property?

How would you define private property? Is it what you own? Is it what you labor on?

If you own something does that mean you can do whatever you want with it? Your property is the culmination of your blood, sweat and tears. You’ve worked your butt off to buy that house, that yard.

All so you and your family can enjoy it.

But then the government comes along and gives you all these restrictions on what you can and can’t do. They’re telling you how to run your property.

Do you still own your property? If someone can come along, dictate laws to you about your property, then fine or imprison you if you fail to uphold those laws do you really own that property?

If you own a piece of land, you should be able to do what you like on it (as long as it doesn’t violate another person’s property or rights). (Click to Tweet)

Georgia’s burn permit policy is a clear, yet discreet message to every property owner in Georgia. The government of Georgia is the real owner of your land, not you. You’re just a tenant.

Why Is It Nannyism?

You remember what state nannyism is right? It’s the state controlling specific aspects of your life like what foods you can eat, what type of cars you can drive, what you can do in your house, etc.

The nanny state is control.

It’s politicians and unelected bureaucrats telling you what you can and can’t do with your life.

Do politicians really have a right to dictate what you can burn on your lawn? Do they have an obligation to do so?

I would argue that they don’t.

State nannyism is harmful to your personal liberty. (Click to Tweet) It takes away your ability to choose, to make your own decisions in life, to take responsibility for your actions.

It claims that you’re not intelligent or mature to make your own decisions in life. To fix it, politicians put adults over you to make sure you make the right decisions.

It’s tyranny plain and simple.

Why Is it a Victimless Crime?

Who exactly do you hurt when you burn a pile of leaves in your backyard?

The Georgia Forestry Commission says the smoke caused from burning leaves, vegetation, and other materials causes harmful gases to enter the air. They say these pollutants and gases “may” harm a person’s health.

Well, so can smoking, car pollutants, and the other hundreds of potential dangers that fill this world.

Let’s be real. Not everyone is burning piles of vegetation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Children aren’t walking through neighborhoods, breathing in shrubbery polluted air. This isn’t China, people.

Not having a burning permit doesn’t violate anyone’s rights or their property. It’s no more dangerous than driving a car.


To think that you’re saving lives and the environment by requiring citizens to get burn permits is amusing.

Yeah, all those poor children who would otherwise have died of toxic leaf smoke are still enjoying their lives.

All thanks to the Georgia Forestry Commission’s work.

But in reality, who in the heck remembers (or even knows) that they need a permit to burn their pile of leaves?

What’s the first thing you think of before lighting a pile of leaves? Is it to make sure you have your permit for the day, or to make sure you don’t burn down the yard? I’m going to bet on the latter.

I doubt whether the majority of Georgians even use a burn permit. Kind of useless don’t you think? You’ve got to get a permit to burn stuff, but you most likely won’t remember to get one. And the local government doesn’t remind you of this stuff.

This reminds me of an Ayn Rand quote I found a week ago…

“The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt.” [emphasis added]

To put it simply. The more laws, the more power the government has.

Laws like the burn permit don’t make you safer, they only make politicians more powerful. (Click to Tweet)

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About John-Pierre Maeli

Keeping it simple and crystal clear, because anything else is useless. I'm here to not only inform you, but to also connect with you. That's what The Political Informer is all about. Feel free to follow me on either Twitter or Google+ Let's talk!

  • Travis

    My neighbors burn 7 days a week no exaggeration. This is not a victimless crime. The use of my private property is ruined by smoke pollution. The good ole boy pigs at the GFC and county enforcement have the same moronic additude as the author of this post. The only difference is they get 45k a year of your tax money to sit on their ass and ignore crime, then moron conservatives call them heros for spending 2/3 of our states tax revenue. P.s fuck all the white trash morons that agree with this idiot author, you are incapable of complex thinking and you all deserve to die in a raging forest inferno. Burning your garbage is not civil disobedience its just white trash culture.

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