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Fire Policy

Page history last edited by Marcella Walter 3 years, 1 month ago

The Big Burn of 1910 was a turning point for fire policy. The U. S. Forest Service--still a young agency--had never experienced such alarming fire conditions nor had it explored and understood the breadth and remoteness of forested country found in Montana and Idaho.  As a result of this horrendous encounter with the unstoppable power of fire in remote territory, the Forest Service revolutionized its fire policy,  viewing itself and the public as engaged in an all out conflict against fire.   In other words, fire had to be eliminated or beaten into submission.  A half-century later, the Forest Service again had to re-evaluate its policies--as employees and other scientists explored the effects of too-little fire in huge timber acreages.  Notice that public organizations--and individuals--often have to change or modify a position that they previously adopted--based on new evidence or pressure.  Does changing a policy indicate surrender or bad judgment?  Or can it mean defending a larger principle or goal and continually seeking new ways to reach that goal--a form of needed ongoing evaluation, compromise, and adaptation?


Secondary Sources


Fire: Friend or Foe by Dorothy Patent. New York: Clarion, 1998.


Blazing Heritage: A History of Wildland Fire in the National Parks by Hal K. Rothman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.


Primary Sources at the Montana Historical Society


Montana Forestry Division Records, RS 283. (Click here for online finding aid.)


Primary and Secondary Sources on the Internet


The Use of the Land: Perspectives on Stewardship, Links to Online Resources related to “The Use of the Land” Essay: “History with Fire in Its Eye” by Stephen Pyne http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nattrans/ntuseland/uselinksfire.htm  (Scroll down for links specific to US Fire Policy, the 1988 Yellowstone Fire, and other specific topics)


US Forest Service, History, The 1910 Fires: http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Policy/Fire/FamousFires/1910Fires.aspx


US Forest Service, History, “U.S. Forest Service Fire Policy”: http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Policy/Fire/Policy/Policy.aspx


Historylink.org, "Forest Fire in Washington State": http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5496 


Vertical Files at the Montana Historical Society


Fires and Fire Prevention


Yelllowstone National Park, Fires

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