The US Forest Service manages over 193 million acres throughout the country. With managing those lands comes the task of wildfire management. Last year the Forest Service had one of its busiest seasons and came in $400 million over budget. As in all things, the money speaks. Last month the Forest Service Chief released a letter that changes the US Forest Services philosophy towards battling wildfires. Purportedly the plan is to let more fires burn on their own, especially fires that are in remote areas that pose little or no danger to property or critical habitat. This falls in line with the more recent wildfire management policies that the National Park Service has implemented as a delayed direct result of the Yellowstone fire of 1988 that led to changing philosophy on wildfire management.
Outlined in the Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (last updated in February of 2009) the recognize “The role of wildland fire as an essential ecological process and natural change agent will be incorporated into the planning process.” This policy will save money spent on fighting every fire, will not put firefighters in remote areas to fight natural wildfires and will allow for pooling resources to attack fire that threaten property and critical habitat while allowing wildfires to fulfill their natural function of resetting a landscape.
With the policy of not fighting every fire comes the task of prevention. This involves thinning, removal of dead trees and prescribed burns. This changes the mindset to be proactive rather than reactive.