Professor Emeritus Burton holds undergraduate degrees in Government (Prescott College) and Conservation of Natural Resources (UC-Berkeley); an M.A. in Cultural Geography with a Regional Planning emphasis (San Francisco State University); and the Ph.D. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley.
He is the founder and managing co-host of The Jurisprudence of Disasters, a collaborative research network established under the auspices of the Law and Society Association. Much of his research centered on the interface between environmental management and disaster management, in contexts such as wildfires in the Wildlands/Urban Interface in states of the Mountain West, and hazardous infrastructure in urban settings. He has done overseas sabbatical research in New Zealand (Fulbright Award, 1994); Thailand (2004); Australia, and Spain (2012). He has written books on the water rights of American Indian tribes, and on legal aspects of the religious uses of public lands.