January 12, 2010
All About 1988 Yellowstone Fires
A lodgepole seedling has the opportunity to sprout because the seeds were released by fire
Fire is good; Yellowstone has long been shaped by fire and not just the cool, creeping ground fires often described as "good" for grass production. The natural history of fire in the park includes large-scale conflagrations sweeping across the park's vast volcanic plateaus, hot, wind-driven fires torching up the trunks to the crowns of the pine and fir trees at several hundred-year intervals. It is supposed to be this way. During the first half of the twentieth century, most people, forest managers included considered forest fires to be destructive and without positive value. For this reason, Yellowstone and throughout the National Park Service had a policy of putting out all fires on national interest wildlands lands. In the second half of the century, forest managers of national parks and forests began to understand the importance of periodic wildland fires. With the help of Smokey the Bear most of America was in consensus that all wildfires were bad. Most Americans steeped in Smokey the Bear's "Only you can prevent forest fires!" mantra, the very thought that forest fires might have a positive side seemed preposterous. We all learned this as children and it is damned hard to change, as our indoctrination to this policy was total. Unfortunately man’s past practice of total forest fire suppression has changed the forest into a much shadier forest floor habitat causing heavy fuel accumulation on the forest floor resulting in the very hot forest fires we see lately that result in maximum loss of the forest. The Natural Burn Policy The National Park Service interprets its mission as letting natural processes play out unimpeded by man. Biologists and park managers have defined its policy: "We allow a park that has documented the role of fire as a natural part of the ecosystem, and that has an approved fire-management plan specifying the prescriptions under which natural fires may burn, to manage each fire on an individual basis."
The "prescribed-fire" approach, which allows fires to burn under certain previously defined conditions called "prescriptions"), has evolved as federal policy since the 1970s, and it was just a matter of time before a prescribed fire consumed some wildland dear to the public's heart. And in a way, it's appropriate, because Yellowstone has both the largest area and one of the most ecologically progressive fire-management plans of any parcel of public land in the contiguous United States.
What has become known as the “D” words: death, defoliation, demise, desolation, destruction, and devastation, are often used to character assassinate the fires that actually are an integral part of the life cycle of the park and the terms and references make biologists with knowledge of biological fire science shutter because of the ignorance peddling.--------------------------------> Rest of Essay