Fourteen Years after the 1988 Yellowstone Fire

Forest Fire Reader Responses


Ned Eddins

Related Articles:

1988 Yellowstone Forest Fires                     Forest Mismanagement 

Mule (Horse Creek) Fire 2002              Forest Fire Reader Responses   

My replies to the articles are indented.

Barrett Bourne:

I have been to Yellowstone, seen and backpacked the landscape.  When I was there in 2002 I thought to myself “what a terrific event of devastation”.  Since a formal education in environmental science, my views have changed.  Yes, the event was terrible, but it could have been mitigated by proper forest management practices.  Also, fire is part of the natural environment and is important to the ecology.

Why was the Yellowstone fire catastrophic?  There are many reasons one could consider in answering that question; however, the one reason I pick is organic fuel.  After many years without fire, snags, fallen limbs, dead trees, and other dry organic material had built up; creating a massive tinder box.  Fires that occur every 100 years or more tend to be catastrophic; areas that experience fire events less than that tend to be beneficial to the ecosystem.  Why? (Don’t forget many species of trees are fire dependant, actually requiring fire for regeneration) Fires with more fuel tend to burn longer and hotter.  Additionally, an increase in stem density from lack of disturbance would also help to carry a fire with lots of fuel for long distances. Thus, prescribed fires every 10-15 years eliminate the accumulation of ladder fuels (& a high Basal area) that cause a fire to move through the crown of a forest stand and cause devastation.  When small tracts are burned (prescribed) periodically in a large landscape, the threat of a 100 year disastrous event are lessened.

“Let burn” and prescribed burn policies are not destroying our forests, human encroachment and an insatiable appetite for more and right now are.  We just have a lot less forest now; 500 years ago a 1 million acre forest fire was no big deal – most people probably didn’t know it happened.  The earth has adapted to fire; civilization has put boundaries on it.  Think about it, when the early European settlers arrived, there was an abundance of forest (forest resources).  Is that because there had NEVER been a raging forest fire until we (European Americans) arrived?  Not likely.  More likely is that forest fires had been around for 1000’s of years, occurring naturally and man made.  Even the Native Americans used fire to clear land for agriculture, to ease hunting, and to establish home sites.  Forests are being destroyed because modern society requires factories and subdivisions; the fact that our forests even need a management regimen should prove this.

Disturbance (fire, clear cut, earthquake, tornado, etc.) is a natural and beneficial component to many ecosystems, including North American forests.  A temporarily sterilized seed bed is not necessarily a bad thing.  Maybe to the weekend warrior who enjoys the scenery on a Saturday hike, but not to an ecosystem that counts time in increments of centuries not decades.  It is simple – diversity in habitat creates diversity in wildlife.  Habitat diversity + wildlife diversity = healthy ecosystem (very simply).  Some species of wildlife (& vegetation) prefer open fields, open canopy forests, dead trees, thick shrubby sites, or all of those habitats in conjunction.  If all we had was old growth forest, than all the wildlife we would have would be old growth forest dwelling species (regardless of forest type). Whether it’s immediately beneficial to the biology or a catastrophic event that temporarily erases all biology, fire resets natural succession.  Each stage of succession provides habitat for a collection of different wildlife species.  In 50 years those sterilized seed beds will be a home to a specialized group of organisms that thrive on a site that is different that the surrounding area.  As a nation, if all we want is a “pretty” looking forest, than fires and clear-cuts are bad.  If we want to enjoy a functioning ecosystem, then interacting disturbances is a fundamental element.  In efforts with the environment it is important to think about the entire ecosystem and time in 100’s of years.

On a 10 or 20 year scale of what “I” want, forest fires may seem bad.  Only through a documented scientific approach over 100’s of years can an effective forest management plan be developed.  Conservation = wise use.  Is it wise use to let a forest burn?  Not sure, depends on what the management goals are.  Besides fire, how would one get into the remote backcountry on a low budget to clear dry organic material from a forest floor?  Clear cutting does open up the canopy and create a fire break.  What about the fire hazard from the cut debris?  Just haul it away right?  Okay, that is very expensive and more scars would be put on the earth in that process from roads.  And if that is not a problem and it is removed, what about the natural decomposition process that takes place and nourishes the soil for new growth?  When talking about China eliminating forest fires by almost half, nobody knows if that is good now or not.  In 100 years it may be determined that the reason China has lost ½ of its forest is due to a rare fungus, and the only way this fungus is controlled is by fire.

Reply: The above response is is an excellent view on the overall role of fire in the ecosystem.

No-Name Fire Ecologist:

This next post is hard to understand what the criticism is other than to point out everyone else is stupid, a chump, doesn’t understand, knows nothing, etc., etc. These know-it-all-wonders that are too gutless to leave their names give me a pain in the rear…if you feel so strong and so justified in your convictions, why are you ashamed to leave your name? Mine is all over the website.

This is a long article so I broke it down into the sections and replied to the most asinine statements. 

I’m a fire ecologist by training, and I did my graduate research on the ’88 fires in Yellowstone, and I don’t even know where to start when it comes to responding to the twaddle that you and the others on this site are spouting.

You could start by leaving your name…the one consistent thing on the responses by these know-it-all liberal PhD environmentalists is they never leave their names.

Let’s start with the obvious: Monica Turner, who you quote and who I worked with, is 100% correct in her conclusions regarding the Yellowstone fires of 1988. Based on the region’s fire history, those forests were ready to burn any time after about 1930, and all they needed was the right weather, which happened along in 1988.

Nobody stated Dr. Turner assessment was wrong, but your statement on the region’s fire history surprises me. I had no idea we had had only one drought in the 58 years prior to the 1988 fire. Based on your extensive knowledge of the region’s fire history, how do you account for the numerous fires that burn in Yellowstone every year? Other than weather what made the 1988 fire so devastating? Despite my ignorance on fire ecology, I would sum it up in one word…environmentalists.

If you understood even the most basic points of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s ecological history, then several things would have become apparent to you. The first is that fires have occurred continuously here since the close of the glaciation. Some fires are big, some are small, but every year, you can expect fires in the Northern Rockies.

This appears to contradict your region’s fire history statement. At any rate what a profound observation, but the question is, how many of these fires burned over 793,000 acres of Yellowstone National Park before the environmentalists used the 1988 Yellowstone fire as a test case for their environmental policies i.e., opposed to downfall cleanup, let burn, etc.?

If you fail to grasp the ecological realities of how fire prone this landscape is, then you’re never going to understand how and why this landscape responds as it does. We know that not only has every single vegetated acre in the Northern Rockies burned, it has burned repeatedly. Nothing new here. If this upsets you, then move somewhere that doesn’t burn, say, Detroit.

Forest fires play an essential role in the natural environment…what upsets the natural balance is humans i.e., human started fires, structures, roads, towns, pollution, recreation etc., etc. Where in any of these articles does it say this upsets me? What upsets me is, I do not want our forests to burn because of asinine policies advocated by an illiterate fire ecologist, the Sierra Club, or some environmental group living in Detroit.

Knowing that there has been this much fire over the last 10,000 years, then you have to ask yourself why the GYE remains forested by vast stands of lodgepole pine of varying ages and densities.

Your profound reading ability must have missed this. Thomas M. Bonnicksen a professor of Forest Science at Texas A&M University stated: in a historic forest, gentle fires burned often enough to clear dead wood and small trees from under the big trees. They might flare up in a pile of logs or a patch of thick trees, but would quickly drop back to the ground. Such hot spots kept forests diverse by creating openings where young trees and shrubs could grow.]

After all, according to the lamentations expressed by your respondents, these fires “destroy” the forests and kill the landscape. Why, according to you, these fires even sterilize the soil! (Insert howling laughter here). So, why aren’t the Rockies one big sand dune?

A great man once said: “People often laugh to hide their ignorance.” Laugh all you want, but if you don’t know the answer to your question you have real problems. Where did you say you went to school?…ever hear of wind blown seeds, animals, birds, etc.

Make a note, sport: I’ve worked with fire for nearly 25 years, and almost all of what you and your respondents say on this site regarding fire ecology is not only wrong, it’s just stupid, and it makes you look like a chump. You and the others who live there should be ashamed to live where you do and to know as little as you do about how the natural works operates. [natural works operates???]

I have spent over sixty years riding and packing into Yellowstone, Teton Wilderness, the Gros Ventre and Wind River mountains, and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. For over thirty years, I had camps that I packed into and spent weeks at a time there. In all of this time, I have met one seasonal park ranger on a trail. Other than this one time, I have never seen any park service or forest service personnel on any mountain trail…but… I have never drove to any trailhead where I didn’t pass rangers driving up and down the road in their pickups. It has always amazed me the knowledge you authorities acquire in an office, or driving along the road.

Fire doesn’t sterilize the soil. Never has, never will.

Sterile is a term referring to any process that eliminates or kills all forms of life from an item or field. After 14 years, where are the forms of life in the picture at the top of the article? And yes, the forest eventually regenerates often better than it was before the fire…that is why fire is an integral part of nature.

Quite the opposite, in fact. It provides a massive dose of fertilization by recycling gigantic volumes of carbon, potassium, nitrogen, and other nutrients.

The forest fire article you obviously did not understand stated: In the grand scheme of an ecological system, big fires may not be detrimental, but they are devastating to many of us…a few years ago (1997), I rode through areas of a “dead sterile forest” below the head of the Yellowstone River. The blackened snags, and a total lack of birds, small mammals, and insect sounds produced an eerie, sad feeling as you rode along the trail…eventually wind blown seeds will take hold and grow in the mineral rich soil, insects and birds return, and there is re-growth of the forest.

If you really want to see a biologically sterile site, then remove the fire. Won’t take too many decades before all of the fire-adapted species are gone, and you’ll end up with a grassy Disneyland. If a post-fire site lacks substantial pioneering vegetation in the early years (and yes, many sites do), then it’s likely that there wasn’t much there to begin with. Such ecological infill is hardly surprising and is the status quo for virtually every fire-adapted ecosystem on earth. Some areas have high diversity, some don’t. Luck of the draw.

As for that tiresome argument about how Yellowstone burned because the flat-footed bureaucrats sat around drinking coffee instead of clearing out all of that deadfall before it caught on fire: yeah, sure, whatever [a brilliant accurate response]. The same goes for that crap about fire suppression. Sure, they managed to suppress fire where it was easy, like in the sagebrush steppe and other open areas.

The 2002 Mule Fire terrain (8,000 to 10,000 ft.) is higher than the Enos Lake (8000 ft.) where the first Yellowstone fire started. After several days of local forest service personnel basically watching the Mule Fire burn, an Incident Team from North Carolina arrived and had the fire under control within a couple of weeks…the same could have been done at Enos Lake. For your information, I was camped with my horses not far from the fire control center during the Mule Fire and rode in different fire areas everyday…since you have trouble reading, get someone to read the article to you and learn how efficient fire fighting personnel suppress fires in sub-alpine forests.

But real, landscape scale suppression in alpine and sub-alpine forests like those in the GYE didn’t come along until the advent of aerial attack, which didn’t come along until the late 1940’s, thanks to surplus World War II bombers.

Bullcrap, are you really this stupid? The unique thing about Yellowstone caldera is the thermal areas not the mountains. Your statement implies the subalpine forests in the Gros Ventre, Wind River, Bitterroot, Wyoming Range, Tetons mountains, etc., just burned before the late 1940’s. The “good old” forest service supplied fire packs to ranchers living in fire prone areas, and these “ecological know nothings” usually had the fires out before forest service personnel could respond. The “good old” refers to the forest service before it was staffed by bureaucrats and environmentalists.

That gives you less than 40 years in which to suppress fires to the extent that you’d get fuels capable of this sort of fire. The plain fact is that human intervention did not create the fuel complexes or the stand densities that were present on the Yellowstone Plateau in 1988.

Of all your lofty idiotic statements this ranks among the stupidest…many of the fires that burned Yellowstone actually started outside of the park, and this is where human intervention came into play: environmentalist’s let burn policy–environmentalist opposition to any meaningful forest downfall cleanup–the environmentalist’s endangered species act–environmentalist’s forcing airplanes with fire equipment and supplies to land in Idaho Falls instead of Jackson Hole because it was the moose breeding season–threat of lawsuits, etc. etc… my fervent hope is you are not a teacher in some college or university.

So, it must be something else that drove these fires. Gee, what could it possibly be? How about the fact that the trajectory of lodgepole stands over time is toward increasing instability and fire susceptibiity. We’ve known this since the early part of the 20th century. Nothing new here. Oh, and then there’s…….weather, which transcends fuel levels and renders any landscape vulnerable to landscape scale fire.

What you clearly fail to understand is that weather is the equalizer when it comes to fire.

Jeez, thank you…I had no idea drought and lightning caused forest fires. This is what the fire article states: Prevailing drought resulting in abnormally low tree moisture, accumulation of dead trees, heavy areas of downfall leading to crown fires, and the environmentalist let burn policy set the stage for the Yellowstone National Park forest fire. Despite these extremely flammable environmental conditions, the forest service watched the Enos Lake fire, which was under a thousand acres for the first week, trying to decide whether to put it out or not…1988 was a bad year to play around with environmentalist policies.

Suppression didn’t happen in the GYE, not to the point that it explains the ’88 fires. These were natural stands, doing their thing, waiting to burn, just like the stands that have preceded them for last 10,000 years.

This paragraph really makes a lot of sense.

You also seem utterly not to understand that in the scheme of things, the ’88 fires were not unexpected, since we know that similarly large (and larger) fires had occurred across the GYE landscape at intervals that seem to hover between 200 and 250 years.

How many of these fires burned over a third of Yellowstone prior to the environmentalists mismanagement of the 1988 fire?

Make a note: These fires happened long before the advent of suppression, airplanes, and the bad old people in charge over there at NPS and USFS headquarters. Couldn’t stop them then, can’t stop them now. My advice, relax. Stop channeling Smokey Bear and Bambi. it’s a fantastic landscape, with a lot to teach you.

You are absolutely right, it is a fantastic landscape, and I do not want to see natural fires exacerbated through stupid environmentalist policies. Every real forest fire authority that I have talked to stated downfall was the greatest factor in massive fires, and yet environmentalist oppose any clean up. Thank goodness land owners are taking precautions…check out the forest floor cleanup around Colter Bay and southwestern Colorado. Does the park service do this?…No. The two pictures of the 2000 Mesa Verde fire shows what burned and what is waiting to burn.

These fires were also not ecologically unfortunate. Despite all of the gnashing of teeth by your respondents, who collectively seem to know less than nothing about the ecology of the places that they claim to love, the fire effects of the ’88 fires didn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know about large, intense fires in the Northern Rockies.

Not the least surprising that you didn’t learn anything. Thankfully, President Bush did and at least put a temporary stop to the environmentalists “let burn policy”.

Put another way: The rate of regeneration about which you are so verklempt [emotional] is entirely predictable. On all of the 40 plus sites that I surveyed across the park, the post-fire response was such that the resulting lodgepole pine cohorts vastly outnumber the stands that burned.

How far were you from your pickup when you viewed these sites? Even someone as dumb as me noticed a lot of new growth in some areas along side the park roads. Getting off of the highway was a different story, I rode into Heart Lake five years ago (2007) and there was a lot more blackened snags than lodgepole pine growth. How do you explain the pictures taken near the south entrance to Yellowstone in 2002?

How can this be? Two words: cone serotiny. This allows the lodgepole forest to grow and retain cones that remain tightly closed until canopy fire melts the resin, pops them open, and the seed rain lands on a perfectly prepared seed bed of mineral soil. Serotiny is a genetically transferred trait, but is actually quite low in the overall population, maybe 10% (think color blindess for an analogy). So…..we’ve got maybe 10% of the tree population not only repopulating, but overpopulating, the post-fire landscape. Even in stands that had only 2-4% pre-fire cone serotiny, the post fire seedling rates far outstrip the pre-fire stand densities. So much for all of the wailing about forest destruction. On the flip side, if you suppress the fires, or log the forests, then the genetic component is permanently lost.

You need to get out of the office more. Go to Island Park, Idaho. There are miles of lodgepole pine reseeded areas marked by the years reseeded signs along the highway to West Yellowstone.

Then you really WILL see these ecosystems come apart at the seams. Fire isn’t “good” or “bad” in these landscapes. It just is.

As for the herbaceous response, much of what you see in the post-fire response was there before the fire and simply re-sprouted. Heat goes up, not down, and dirt is a great insulator.

What about fires that smolder underground and flare up days or even weeks later? Why does it take years for plants to simply resprout in the post- fire enriched soil? How about sucking all of the oxygen out of the air? A cousin’s husband and several others were killed in a forest fire…they got into a cave and didn’t burn, they suffocated.

Seems to me [The last Soil??] does not get sterilized by these fires. Some areas have lots of pre-fire herbaceous species, some don’t. Luck of the draw. It’s been like this for, oh, the last 10,000 years or so. yes, some areas of Yellowstone that were forested will revert to meadow, simply because the local trees had no serotiny. It’s how you get places for the elk to graze. In 500 years, it will be different. Nothing to see here, folks. Let’s move it along.

Your pre-fire herbaceous plants account for a small percent of forest regeneration. What about seeds from unburned areas scattered by the wind, streams, animals big and small, birds etc.?…At one time, the “good old” forest service even reseeded burned areas from airplanes.

As for your whining about the slow pace of “recovery,” two things: First, “recovery” implies some sort of damage.

You are like a broken record on this…exactly where did I whine about the slow recovery. That is just the way it is at this altitude. One other thing, didn’t anything burn before 10,000 years ago? Glaciation of the park receded thousands of years before that date.

This may be true on privately-held forests, and may even apply to commercially grown timber on US Forest Service lands (but less so these days, given the Forest Service’s move away from timber production to recreation). But the NPS does not exist to grow timber. It’s not their job to determine optimal timber growth rates; their job is to ensure that the natural processes – such as fire – that drive these ecosystems are allowed to make that determination. Look it up it’s right there in their management policies. Clearly, this makes you unhappy. Get over it. Either you want a natural ecosystem, or you don’t. Tourists don’t come to Wyoming to see clearcuts.

No and after the initial curiosity, they don’t like to see thousands of acres of “sterile” black-snag forests with no animals.

Large fire is part of the cost of working and living in this ecosystem. Put another way, nature is messy. Unitdy. Mother Nature is a mother, sometimes. If that makes you unhappy, then go to Disneyland. But don’t kick the NPS in the crotch for doing their job, which is to protect ecological integrity. Fire is all about ecological integrity. Get used to it.

Second, if you’re surprised by the “slow” rate of growth of the post-fire stands on the Yellowstone Plateau, then it’s because you don’t understand anything about fire and how it works, and you’re simply not paying attention.

What I wrote–and you obviously did not read–on the slow rate of recovery was in relation to the garbage put out by environmentalist websites. This was my response to those claims: In vast areas of Yellowstone, the destruction caused by the Yellowstone National Park forest fires of 1988 is nearly as visible today (2002) as in 1988. The forest fire devastation in the heavy-timbered areas of Yellowstone National Park will be present for generations. Complete regeneration from a forest fire at this altitude in the Rocky Mountains takes from one hundred to one hundred and twenty years.

This isn’t a video game, after all. This is a high elevation plateau, with crappy volcanic soils and a short growing season. No one should be surprised that this is a hard place to make a living. When I revisit my study plots (which I’ve been doing since 1990), I am astounded at the density and height of the trees. More than that, I am astounded by the variation across the landscape. Some are short, some are tall. Some sites are thick, others less so. Put another way: It’s been this way for the last 10,000 years. Nothing new here folks, let’s move it along. I documented pre-fire stands well over 100 years in age that were barely 5-inches in diameter. There are fire scars from previous fires on Mount Bunson that are still visible over 100 years post-fire. How is it that you and others who live there have such a shocking lack of awareness about how the natural world works? And why does this sort of natural change offend you so much? I appreciate that kicking government employees in the crotch for sport is all the rage, but really, how can you be so…..stupid…..about the ecological realities of where you live?

It doesn’t offend me at all, that is just the way it is, and always will be, at this altitude. What does offend me is ridiculous statements by a forest fire ecologist with 25 years experience that draws all of these conclusions from articles he did not read, or at least did not understand.

Many of us who studied the ’88 fires thought that the post-fire stands would have started thinning by, but many appear not to have done do.

What a well written concise sentence.

My answer to that: So what? Regardless, it’s fantastic to watch. If, as you claim, you’re not seeing flowers, and birds, and mammals in these burned areas, it’s because you’re not going out there.

I just take pictures of your overblown wonderful recovery, and no, for me it is not fantastic to watch. For your information, I have spent more time riding, packing, and actually living deep in these mountains than you and a dozen more like you have even dreamed about.

Rule #1 of post-fire stands: lots – LOTS – of insects. Rule #2: Lots – LOTS – of birds to eat those insects.

In Rule #1 and Rule #2,  you fail to state how long it takes for these “LOTS” to occur. Eleven years after the park fire, there were areas along the head of the Yellowstone River and in the timber ridges bordering the upper end of the Yellowstone meadows with no plants, no visible insects, and no birds. Where are these “LOTS” with bird nests and new pine growth 3 years after the 2000 Mesa Verde  fire or 14 years after the 1988 Yellowstone fire.

Go outside and learn about how these places actually work before you start whining about the bureaucrats, who didn’t have a thing to do with how these fires played out. If you want to blame someone, then blame that God thing that you people are always clamoring about.

At last, you finally make an intelligent statement, and you are absolutely  right…bureaucrats had little to do with how the fires burned out…snow did.

I should really thank this overeducated-illiterate jerk–overeducated-illiterate what an oxymoron. After reading his response, my suggestion is to understand what you are reading, and then write based on the “twaddle” that is stated in the articles, use specific referenced points not generalities. Based on your response, you did not read the articles, so I can understand your predicament. Another point is, don’t repeat yourself every few sentences, and it would be nice if you learned to read, spell, punctuate, and write complete sentences. The best thing about your response is it made me re-read the fire articles, and brought back some good memories…and a few sad ones. The fire articles were written fifteen years after the 1988 Yellowstone fire, and there is no questions things are slowly changing in the burned areas, but after forest fires, the time frame for high altitude forest regeneration is decades, not years.

Ken Tullis:

Eddin, you oviously have no idea what you are talking about. Forest fires accur naturally and are essential in the preservation, not destruction of our wildlands. The worst thing about the internet is that any uneducated fool like yourself can spread facts that arern’t true and teach people the wrong thing. The reason fires kill trees instead of just scarring them is because the intensity of fires have increased due to a dramatic increase in fuel on the forest floor due to a hundred years of forest mismanagement. I have worked for the BLM for thrtee years now and have somewhat of an understanding on how the ecosystem works. You should try to read up on your sh*t [my change] a little bit before you let your opinions make you look like an idiot.

Reply: Mr. Tullis makes my point when he states:The reason fires kill trees instead of just scarring them is because the intensity of fires have increased due to a dramatic increase in fuel on the forest floor due to a hundred years of forest mismanagement. Mr. Tullis is absolutely right, but correcting a hundred years of mismanagement by letting our forests burn is utter stupidity.

No Name, but did leave an email address that didn’t work.

I would like to say congradulations to whomever started this site. Not because it’s good but because it’s the biggest load of bullcrap that I’ve ever heard! I’m doing a research project on the Yellowstone Forest Fires of ’88 and this site is the exact opposite of everything that I’ve read (not only from the net, but also from the books and magazines!). I’m happy to say that tis is one of the sites that I can rule out as a possible source of information. Thank you for a waste of my time.

Reply: Thank you for your reply. It has made my day, my week. When I wrote this article, I hoped to get a lot of replies from people like you, but sad to say, yours is only the second one. I liked your statement  – “this site is the exact opposite of everything that I’ve read (not only from the net, but also from the books and magazines.”

If you want to know about forest fires, you have to do more than read the spin garbage of environmentalists. You can disagree with the article, but if you had read the whole article, no open-minded person can reach your bullcrap conclusion. Don’t first hand observations, on the spot pictures, references mean anything to you?

Not that it will do any good, but I suggest you read the article, the replies (especially McMurray), and heaven forbid, think about what you are reading, then go to Yellowstone and see for yourself. I will be glad to give you a list of areas “in which to observe the wonderful regeneration of Yellowstone.”

You claim to be doing a research project, but the first sentence, or paragraph, that disagrees with your preconceived ideas is bullcrap…some research project. From someone that spent many years doing basic research in molecular biology and reproductive physiology, I hope you are a high school student and not doing this kind of research at the university level. The sad part is that you “narrow-minded, we-know-best environmentalists” have such a profound effect on forest management policy.

Wayne Stroop

You say you “spent many years doing basic research in molecular biology and reproductive physiology”?  You must have published the results of all that incisive research under your Injun name– I can’t find a single Medline reference for “O. Eddins” or “N. Eddins”.

Yours in chicanery,

Wayne Stroop

Reply: I assume this is about the forest fire articles, but it could also be from some liberal nutcase defending Ward Churchill. In either case, it shows that when these people can’t argue the facts, their strategy is to attack or smear those that oppose their views. This is about all most liberals and environmentalists are capable of doing. If someone else wants to try this approach, here is my response.

The thesis for my Masters Degree was on Fluoride Retention in Leaf Tissue in the Department of Botany [Plant Physiology] with a minor in Experimental Biology at the University of Utah. This work was funded and partially published under my major professor’s research grant. If you want to check, the thesis is in the University of Utah library. After graduating from Colorado State University as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, I spent another two years at the University of Utah in the Department of Molecular Biology on a National Institute of Health Research Grant studing the Effects of Uterine Fluids on Horse Semen. The grant was for three years, but after a falling out with my major professor, I returned to my main veterinary interest, Equine reproduction. The data from this study was not published, but it certainly elevated my veterinary practice. Research in reproductive physiology did not stop after I returned to practice. It may not fall under the classic definition of basic research, but there is nothing more “down to earth” than the hand removal of manure from a mare in order to palpate uterine abnormalities, or ovarian follicular development.

Needless to say, the writer left a phony email address and probably name as well.

Scott Yanco, Colorado

Scott, before we get into the nitty-gritty of this, I want to thank you for taking the time to express your viewpoint and leave your name. Even though we disagree, I sincerely appreciate your comments.

This is the single most distorted perception of forest ecology that i have ever heard. I would try to correct you except a majority of what you have said is wrong or misinterpreted.

Neither Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary nor Encarta lists a definition for forest ecology. If you are referring to ecology as the branch of science concerned with the interrelationships of organisms and their environments, then we agree that forest fires play a significant role in the relationship. If you had read the whole article and the replies, you would have found out that I stated this in several different ways.

My response to the above statement is that this article is on forest fires not forest ecology. These two maybe interrelated, but under the present condition of our forests, they are not necessarily compatible. Since the arrival of Europeans, man, through many many ways, has altered the relationship of organisms and their environment. The last People to live in harmony with the environment were the nomadic Plains Indians…they built no structures and the marks of their travois trails soon disappeared.

“Forest” ecology today is not the same as it was several hundred years ago when forest fires could burn without regard to economic impact. Theories on forest ecology may exist as a collegiate discipline, but in a pure sense they do not exist in the real world, because the environment is constantly undergoing change, i.e. population growth and environmental pollution. For good or bad, since the environment is undergoing constant change, our views on the environment cannot be static. Principals of forest ecology that applied ten, twenty, or fifty years ago must not restrict management of our forests. Forest management must be based on forest condition as they are now.

Your proposed management plan would only lead to the perpetuation of the problem of unnaturally intense forest fires. In order to understand how to deal with the situation you should probably do some research into why and how these unnaturally large burns begin. You’ll see that it is less a matter of an overly large fuel load and more an issue with tree density. The forests that routinely burn are spread out and free of a significant understory. For example Ponderosa Pine forests, which are possibly the most fire dependant habitat in the US, are described as parks with trees 10 to 25 feet apart separated by grasses and bare ground. This creates a fire that burns low (where the relatively fire proof bark protects it) and cannot reach the canopy where catostrohic fires occurr.

The forests we see today have been extensively logged and then allowed to regenerat free of forest fire such that succesional growth was unlimited and the forests are so dense that the trees themselves form ladders to the canopy. This is exemplified by the Hayman Fire in CO.

These statements are absolutely ridiculous, and if a college professor told you this, please tell him or her what I said. Are you trying to tell me that the downfall in Mesa Verde and the Mule Fire had little to do with the fires that occurred there? Based on your statement, why didn’t the area of the Healthy Forest picture burn? In areas, the Mule Fire burned up to logged areas and stopped. Without exception, forest service fire personnel that I have talked with believe excessive buildup of downfall is a major cause of forest fires.

Also, the Yellowstone fire is an entirely different case. Spruce/Fir forests see at those latitudes typically see fires only once a centruy and these are of the type known as “Stand Replacement Fires” where the complete devastation seen was typical.

I live within fifty miles of Yellowstone and there are several fires there every year. If the environmentalists “let burn policies” were in effect now, as they were in 1988, another third or more of Yellowstone National Park would be gone.

However this kind of devastation preserves key species to the ecosystem such as lodgepole pine whose cones can only open as a result of heat (generated by fires). This pioneeer species is the first step in the regeneration of the climax forest comprised of spruce and fir. Without removal of spruce and fir the shade intolerant lodgepole would not grow and when a blowover or unpreventable fire occurred there would be no natural pioneer species and the regeneration of the forest to its natural state would be impossible. Basic Ecology. For more information of this i suggest reading the Article by Brown and Shepper “Fire History and fire climatology along a 5 degree gradient in latitude in Colorado and Wyoming” From 2001. Also, any introductory ecology textbook would at least put your argument into a legitimate scientific perspective.

Scott, I took university classes on ecology many years ago while working on my Masters Degree in Plant Physiology. If this is what is being taught in “forest” ecology today, I will pass on reading any new basic ecology books.

While I agree that our forests have been mismanaged and that a myriad of groups are responsible and that many of these groups usually do not draw the attention for their part that they deserve. And I applaud your effort to de-polarize the issue. However one cannot supplant blind support with arbitrary viewpoints that are simply unpopular and assume they are right. I also agree with your sense of urgency but the scientific grounding of your understanding of the process is non-existant and your proposed solution fails to take any sort of ecology into account. What exactly does thinning mean? Who does it? Who pays? Which trees? How is a clear cut different from a crown fire? Basically use your writing skill, your passion for nature and you reason and apply it to the science of the issue and I think that your view on the situation will be strengthened in some aspects and changed in other. But, most importantly, your view will be based upon fact and not on political standpoints.

As I stated in the article, thinning is a misnomer. What I am referring to is cleaning up areas of the forest floor and the removal of dead trees, and there are many ways this could be done with little expense to the government. Take a look around Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park, or go down between Durango and Pagosa Springs, and see how the people that live there are cleaning up the downfall. Again, I clearly stated in the article that I was talking about strip clear cuts one-quarter to one half-mile wide. There is absolutely no relationship between strip clear cuts and crown fires, except for one thing. Strip clear cuts are one of the most effective means of stopping forest fires, and thus preventing devastating crown fires.

Mike McMurray, Oregon

I’ve been a forest /eco-system photographer for over 20 years. I travel all over the country and have photographed forests in 32 states. I must say, you have hit the nail on the head. Good for you!  I started out as a “good environmentalist” proud of my heritage and the groups I supported: i.e., The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Wilderness Society, The Earth Justice League and others….. soon I considered myself a conservationist, and over the last 13 years, I distanced myself from any environmental organization….for the same reasons that Ansel Adams denounced the Sierra Club and resigned his “lifetime heritage” statue with them and other groups.

I became tired of their lies and deceit.  Yellowstone has always been a “heritage” area for me…..the last great ‘lower 48’ wilderness…. much the same as the book “Playing God in Yellowstone” by Alston Chase described it. I have visited Yellowstone perhaps 30 times in 53 years and have found out why it changed…..the environmentalists were on the “Board” and wanted to show how their management philosophy could be used in other eco-systems. Boy did they screw up! And, not only haven’t they apologized for it….they continue to demonstrate just how little they know of natural processes and the eco-system.

I cover forests….many types and fires. I have photographically covered perhaps 40 “project” fires over the last 15 years and many smaller fires.  Fires today are not natural.  Fuel loads in our forests are 10 to 20 times natural levels and that is not caused by past logging practices….it is caused unfortunately by the lack of management practices. I have read some of the comments by your readers….oh to be young and ignorant and full of passion!

First of all…we live here now. You may not like it but the fact remains. In fact there are 280 million of us now. When the Pilgrims arrived, there were perhaps 20-40 million native Americans… who gets to check out?  If you want to return to natural conditions….1 out of 10 of you get to stay and the rest get to go away….who will that be?  I’m a native American, so I guess by rights….I can stay!!!!

Sorry folks….but no matter what we do or try to do, we cannot get our forests back to their natural “pre-settlement conditions”, that’s impossible.  Too much has changed and not all of it was bad. (I now have cable and CNN…..couldn’t get that in my teepee before and I now have internet….and a whole lot of dumb-ass white do-gooders to help us remember the past….)  Get Real!

You wouldn’t be here today without the progress that was made by all of our ‘forefathers’ and the accomplishments they made…and part of our heritage was the utilization of our forests and will continue to be so. Trying to protect them is the most idiotic idealization you white people have yet come up with.  You can’t “protect” them…they and the naturally evolving conditions of the universe are not under your control….the very best we can try to do is to ‘manage’ them and make the best use of them as good stewards of the land and pass that understanding of how to use them ‘wisely’ onto our next generation. And yes, we must utilize them…that is the preservation of the universe and of us.

Wise-use provides for today and tomorrow….or would you still want to keep ‘robbing the resources from third-world countries?  (those that advocate preserving and protecting our forests are some of the worst environmental degraders of world resources yet known…. the not-in-my-back-yard syndrome should have been outgrown by the end of the third grade). Instead we should be utilizing wood – and trees and showing other countries how to do the same…. it is after all the only renewable resource we have…..and yet 3/4 of the world population uses it to heat their dwellings and cook over it….Does this begin to get through to some of you elitists, self indulgent, eco-centric know nothings?

Unless we help the rest of the world climb out of their poverty, you are only prolonging it.  And unless we utilize our forests and it’s resources, you are only destroying it and the habitat for it’s wildlife…. the Great Spirit, God or whatever you want to call him, had a plan for us and that is why he provided everything we need to survive and thrive here for us. Our problem seems to be understanding what to do with his gifts… is only you who are confused. 

Reply: Thanks Mike for an excellent post. It is good to have comments from someone with your vast experience in observing and photographing our forests. How sad that every year more and more of the beauty that Mike depicts in his striking photographs is gone…destroyed by fire. Mike’s website,, has articles, as well as,  beautiful forest pictures.

Oneofmanyfeathers, South Carolina

When you say thinning, just how far is this to be carried out?  Do we want a forest one could drive or ride through?  Dead trees and under brush do fuel forest fires raising their temperatures to a killing inferno, but how did it get to be so different now than in the forest of times past?  It use to be that fires would burn till they burned themselves out.  No one need worry then because no million dollar resorts or homes were in the way.

I feel that mankind is to blame.  Not only here in America, but world wide.  Had not so many forests been destroyed by clear cutting in the name of progress, we’d have more room for mother [earth] to do her work.  But instead, we have boxed in areas, called them parks, and let them become ticking tender box time bombs.  So now when a fire burns out of control, what is left of the forest?

Yes it will take many years for it to re-grow again, but now that there’s not much forest to go around anymore, if you will, we can now see what years of mankind’s blind greed has done. Has anything been learned from all the years of taking and not giving back?  I think not, for this continues at an alarming rate world wide. Well at least where there’s trees.

In some areas used for tree farming, they take out hard woods and replace them with fast growing pines.  In other areas, they’re not replaced at all.  So here we are, 2002, left with a forest that needs to be groomed, if you will, so that it might survive. In my opinion, the forest of today are an endangered species.

I agree, there should be no logging companies or roads [in National Parks and Wilderness Areas]. How do we thin and clean them up? Also where do we stop this process as not to interfere with the wildlife, bugs included?

 We agree that the causes of forest fires cover a broad spectrum, and everyone must share the blame. The last People to live in total harmony with Mother Earth were the nomadic Plains Indians…they built no structures and the marks of their travois trails soon disappeared.

Thinning is a misnomer. What I am referring to is cleaning up areas of the forest floor and the removal of some dead trees. The above picture of downfall is beside a road. There is no reason these areas cannot be cleaned up, and should have been cleaned up by the forest service, which would certainly help from the standpoint of human caused fires.

Until recently, I would have agreed that clear cuts are bad, and still do if it is a whole mountainside. What I am referring to is narrow bands one-fourth to one-half mile wide primarily along the ridgeline of north facing timbered areas. These bands of clear cuts are probably the single most effective means of stopping a forest fire. Within a short time after being clear cut, these areas have newly planted trees growing, grasses, abundant flowers, and are full of game signs. After a bad fire there is nothing but black trees, with possibly some green fireweed. Proper forest management will increase habit for all types of wildlife, whereas hot burning fires destroys it for many years.

Forest fires are a tremendous problem, and I seriously doubt if there is a solution for all the reason you stated and the ones that I have stated. Any attempt to prevent forest fires by cleaning up our forest floors requires new forest management policies. The people that are charged with carrying out these policies, and the ones that will oppose them, is the place to start. If this means changes in some areas of the Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, this is fine. Give me the choice of saving the forests, or using these Acts to destroy them, and I choose the forests. Let me use an example of something I said before.  It is this kind of environmentalist opposition to any meaningful forest management that is destroying our forests.

Oregon, federal officials identified the Squires Peak area as a high fire risk in 1996, and began planning a project to thin crowded trees and dense underbrush on 24,000 acres. After six years of analysis and documentation, administrative appeals and two lawsuits, work was allowed to begin on 430 acres of the original 24,000-acre project. When lightning ignited the Squires Peak fire on July 13, 2002, with only a fraction of the area thinned, the fire quickly spread to 2,800 acres. The thinned area was unharmed by the fire. In un-thinned areas, the fire killed most trees, sterilized soils, and destroyed the habitat of threatened spotted owls. The fire cost $2 million to suppress, and $1 million will be needed to rehabilitate the devastated area.

You are absolutely right about million dollar homes, and sub-divisions in and next to the forests. The major effort in fighting fires now is directed at saving these homes instead of the forest. Again…I am not referring to towns…if there is a choice between saving a million dollar house and the surrounding forest I choose the forest. If I owned a home with a beautiful view in or against a forest and there was a fire, the last thing that I would want is for that house to be saved. Who wants to be surrounded by black dead-tree snags the rest of their life, and what would be the re-sale value of the house after the fire? I would rather take the insurance money and go build somewhere else. People with homes like these often support environmentalist groups, and setting in a house worth a fraction of its cost, while staring at black-tree snags is not going to make them very generous. Currently in Los Alamos, one neighbor is suing another for putting out the fire on the roof of his house.

I have rode and packed for over fifty years in the Bridger-Teton and Cache National forests, the Teton, Wind River, and Jedediah Smith Wilderness areas, and the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks. Between my father and I, we have had summer camps deep in the mountains for at least forty of these years. Let me add, these camps were not commercial endeavors, or for hunting. They were simply a place to go with friends and enjoy the most precious of Mother Earth’s gifts, beauty and solitude. In all this time (this summer three months straight), I have never seen a forest ranger on a trail and only once a trail crew; they were lost and stopped to ask directions. A good share of the forest service field people spend the day driving up and down the road in pickups, and accomplish absolutely nothing, except maybe give a ticket for exceeding the 16 day stay limit…this statement comes from years of observation, and is supported by a great many people living in the West.

Environmentalists are not the only problem connected with forest management. If I had to pick the major cause for our forests being in there present condition, it would not be environmentalists, but the Forest Service. The reason I support Forest Service Chief Bosworth and President Bush is they are proposing forest service policy changes. But, the forest service is one of the biggest government civil service bureaucracies, and as American Indians know better than anyone, nothing or very little changes a government bureaucracy. In the last thirty years or so, the local forest service has gone from three employees to thirteen full-time and twelve part-time employees. During this same period, our forests have gone downhill. Not necessarily from what you can see along a road, but in the backcountry (see, Steve Banks post below). The forest service is great for putting up new shinny trail signs, but away from the road, the trail often disappears, or is impassable from down timber across it. The Civilian Conservation Corps under Pres. Roosevelt made the last positive improvements to our forests in the 1930s. The ideal thing would be to re-institute this type of program using troubled teenagers, drug-related prisoners, men on welfare, homeless men, etc, etc. As for costs, it could probably done cheaper than fighting the fires, unless it turned into another government bureaucracy. But, this is wishful thinking; the ACLU and other human rights groups would stop it before it got off the ground.

Forest Fires are a worldwide problem, but one country that has reduced its forest fire levels is China. Between 1988 and 2001, China has had on average 6,500 forest fires and 51,500 hectares [a hectare equals 2.47 acres] of forest damages annually, down 58 percent and 94 percent respectively of the level before 1987. The ratio of forest fire damage in China per year averages 0.031 percent compared to 0.1 percent on the international level …there is no need to point out that China has no environmentalists, or ACLU, to influence government policies, and yes, little or no human rights.

Steve Banks, Wyoming

Your article is very interesting and insightful.  Hopefully many will read it and think a little.  Seems the bureaucracy can’t really think for itself.  It is either one extreme or another.

Last summer, 2001, myself and three other companions backpacked the Shoshone Pass and 5 Pockets country.  My goal was retracing some of John Colter’s route and Osborne Russell’s route of 1835 (going from the Gros Ventre to the Shoshone River).  One of my companions is a retired forester from this area.  He pointed out that the forests where we were, were of a very old age and were dying.  Most of the existing trees were infected with mistletoe growth and other diseases.  The dead fall is tremendous!!  New growth is almost non-existent.  His comment was “….. a fire would do a lot of good in rejuvenating the landscape….”.

This was in light of the current rules prohibiting the harvesting of downed timber, etc, etc, ad nauseam. A lot of this area is not wilderness yet any kind of motorized vehicle is prohibited.  There are lots of old tie hack camps here and most of the area is still just like it was when they walked off.  These forests are being strangulated by their own existence. One wonders about the old adage about not knowing history only to doom themselves by repeating past mistakes.  This would be a good time to reinstate something like the old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camps.  It would provide a needed service and at the same time offer an opportunity for many young and old to enjoy the outdoors and wonders of nature.  Kind of an “adopt a forest” concept.

And while I’m on my soap box, I might also mention the wolves and the grizzly bears up there.  We could invite the tree huggers especially, and let them have first hand experience with them!  Adopt a grizzly or a wolf, they would love to come live in your backyard!

Bryan Brooks Ranger School

The present fires in the western pine forest are dramatically different from those observed by early settlers.  Historical accounts describe large, park-like and open stands.  Many of today’s fires are stand-destroying crown fires as opposed to much lower intensity surface fires seen 100-200 years ago.  Many skeptics say to allow these wildfires to burn. It is called Mother Nature and is part of the life cycle.  I disagree with this simply because in the past 100 years we have suppressed fire to the point of our forest becoming over grown and densely populated allowing shade-tolerant species to grow beneath the stand.  These ladder fuels are what allow major crown fire to erupt.

Pronatalist, California

I am not some enviro wackos against use or proper care of forests. Rather, I favor, as I should, what benefits people, and natural population expansion, to benefit “the many.”

So I want to see forests used for logging, areas to clear for space for farms, urban sprawl, room to build more cities and towns, camping, hiking, fishing, mining, or whatever people might have use of their forest for.

Of course humans should alter nature and such, but we don’t always agree on a sensible balance. I hardly think nature is impressed with our costly efforts to always “conquer” and “control” everything. So forest fire fighting, should be to protect human interests and property only, not to “fireproof” forests.

I hardly see why the 1988 Yellowstone fires should be considered a catastrophe, because forest fires seem to be a normal part of forest ecology, that forests have managed without any “help” from humans for thousands of years.

I think more forest fires should be monitored for public safety, but left to burn themselves out, even if they take off with no hope of control in dry or drought conditions. It’s not that a forest fire is spreading that should be of concern, but what direction is it going or where it is. Because we can’t “control” all forest fires, and fire fighting resources are more effectively reserved for populated areas in need of some forest fire suppression. Road less wilderness where people don’t live anyways, should be able to be left for nature to manage, as usually “doing nothing” cost less than “doing something.”

Letting more forest fires burn, is an obvious way to reduce fuel loads in forests, let dead and decaying trees be cleared out, and to help form natural firebreaks. Wildfire seems to be the normal life-death cycle of forests that aren’t overly fire suppressed or thinned or logged by humans to keep them from becoming overgrown. Of course forests should be thinned along the human/forest interfaces, to help keep forest fires in the forest where they belong, but I think there are lots of inaccessible wilderness areas, not yet in need of costly forest fire suppression, because they are so unpopulated.

Also, why must man always “conquer” every forest fire and “show it who is boss?” Does nature care? Sensible management of natural fire use, or whatever they call supposedly beneficial forest fires that they let burn, would seem to involve a few firebreaks and back burns to keep the fire away from towns and such, but not actually full “containment.” What harm is really done by letting a growing forest fire burn around a town, or spread deeper into the forest, away from people? Isn’t it easier to steer a big forest fire away from populated areas, than to actually stop or “contain” it? There is simply too much fuel, and forests too vast, to think we can keep them from burning during droughts. If “April showers bring May flowers,” then why wouldn’t drought bring the smell of burning forests? Isn’t natural forest fires, nature’s way of thinning out forests that humans neglect? Not the best way, but often the cheapest. Why throw away taxpayer money on everything imaginable?

They should have better forecast the conditions in Yellowstone in 1988, and not fought the fires, and more quickly take steps and do back burns to protect the few cabins and such. All we got for the huge fire suppression efforts in Yellowstone, was a huge bill, and it was snow and improved weather that fizzled the fires anyways. I still think that in such unpopulated areas as Yellowstone and National Forests, they should let more forest fires run their course, and not fight them, because it costs too much to intervene, if we don’t have to. Not because enviro wackos claim that forest fires are “natural” or “good,” but to save money, and to more reasonably subject forest fire fighting to sensible cost/benefit analysis. What good does it do to stop every pidly forest fire we can, for the fuel build-up to lead to massive firestorms years later? It’s the drought-driven forest fires, that clear out most of the burn-out forest. So I think forest fires can often be left to run their course during droughts too. Don’t they say that big forest fires, are no big deal in places like Alaska, because so few people live there, so they often just let them burn themselves out?

Obviously, the forest fires that mostly creep along the ground, burning off ground litter, are supposedly the most beneficial, as they aren’t so out-of-control to seem to need any controlling, and I imagine they can get “large” if they burn naturally for a month or more, and yet still be a minor fire. But even the crown fires, or firestorms that make their own wind, don’t burn all the forest, and don’t rage like that every day, but leave patchy patterns, and are bound to burn themselves out or exhaust their fuel supply or run up against fickle weather that fizzles them after a while. We can’t stop lightning, nor thunderstorms nor floods, so why must we stop every forest fire? I think we could let more forest fires run their course, hoping that nature will soon “contain” them for free. What have we gained, if they are stopped, to only burn anyways a few years later? Even natural forest fires, could be part of the beauty of God’s Creation, in a way, and humans are hardly obligated to go tame all the wild lands if we don’t have to.

And of course there should be logging, salvage logging, and all that. Why let American logging jobs, and a useful resource, just rot or burn or go to waste? But I think letting forests burn naturally, in some areas at least, are part of a sensible forest management strategy. Not all wild lands are yet worth the huge effort to tame. So let some places be wild for a while.

I read some poster said somewhere, that they don’t have the forest fire problem in Mexico, that they have in California, because they don’t have actors building multi-million dollar homes in the middle of the forest, and they don’t fight the forest fires, so the fuel doesn’t build up to such hazardous levels. And of course proper landscaping and fire resistant home design, can help too, to prepare for the inevitable.

I also believe that it much benefits “the many” for human populations to be large and growing. All the more people around to enjoy life. “The more the merrier,” they say. Let nature run its course there too, promoting life with proper sanitation and vaccines and such for “death control,” but discouraging anti-life “birth control,” and rather than “preventative measures” to limit family size, enjoy having “all the children that God gives.” Large families are cool, as they allow all the more people to live. As population expands into more areas, then the wild areas are transformed, and more easily, and more practically tamed. And the vast areas where forest fires aren’t worth controlling, or are prone to burn, are reduced somewhat.

Not everything should be “natural” or left to nature. But why not, where it is beneficial to man, or more elegant? The proper balance should be to alter nature for our benefit, but not always having to “control” everything. We can’t “control” everything anyways.

Reply: This post brings out many good point. In this area if fires are in basically self-contained areas and pose little threat to structures, they are allowed to burn themselves out. There was a fire in Grand Teton National Park last year, 2002. The fire was started by lightning on a sagebrush flat across from the Jackson Hole Airport. Initially the airport and a nearby campground had to be closed for a short time. The twenty-seven hundred acre fire was closely monitored so that it didn’t jump any roads or get into a grassy area to the north and east of Blacktail Butte that has a herd of buffalo on it. Other than that, the fire was allowed to burn with little suppression until it reached a heavy timbered area on Blacktail Butte. I do believe that National Parks and Monuments require extra care. These are areas that were set aside for there natural beauty, and there is no beauty in a black sterile forest. I am going to repeat something that I have already stated…In the grand scheme of an ecological system, big fires may not be detrimental, but they are devastating to many of us. A few years ago, I rode through areas of a “dead sterile forest” below the head of the Yellowstone River. The blackened snags, and a total lack of birds, small mammals, and insect sounds produced an eerie, sad feeling as you rode along the trail. This is the reason that for me, the Yellowstone fire was a catastrophe, and during my lifetime always will be.

Sidney Oliver, Arizona:

I think we share common objectives. I don’t know about you, but as for me, I indict forest service, environmentalist, corporate/development, pollution and fire-control policies uniformly. I say we need to scrap it all and go back to a clean drawing board, starting with where we’re at NOW, with climatic challenges and everything else that’s on the table. I grew up in the rural South, got a BB gun at age 3, and learned to hunt and fish from a part-Cherokee papa who could name everything that grew or moved in the Appalachians. He was a conservationist and took personal responsibility for his gun and for his campfire, and he killed only what he could eat. We wouldn’t have the problems we’re having if corporations, government, environmentalists, anti-environmentalists, and just plain people all shared his policies.

I could not agree more.

No Name California:

Having been raised in Oregon…in timber country, I am in total support of active logging, cleanup, and god forbid, I even support clear cutting as the best means to manage our forests ( I won’t even discuss the advantages of building logging roads, at lumber company expense, used to fight forest fires). Now living in California and only a few miles from Lake Tahoe National Forest. I see first hand the impact of the Sierra Club and their stupid, or should I say misguided, views on forest management. Burnt hillsides, massive mudslides in the burnt areas, and dead trees everywhere from the spread of diseases that effect the trees….

 No Name Washington:

Good for you. This is a disaster. If the fires are from natural disaster and should just let be to do there thing, and this maybe off the wall a bit, but in this case maybe we should stop vaccinating people for deadly things–and let nature have its way, or outlaw birth control–and let nature over populate the earth–that way in a couple of hundred years or less we can all starve to death naturally–and so forth. Even better–man wasn’t born knowing how to read, write, and do math so lets be natural and burn all the books and outlaw education–might just as well, it sounds like some folks aren’t using their brain anyway. Okay, I’m off the soap box.

No Name Utah:

Thanks for your article on Forest Fires.  I couldn’t agree more with your views.  It makes absolutely no sense to me to allow 5.9 million acres of forest to burn while not allowing 1 acre of timber to be harvested. The bureaucrats have overrun the Forest Service and the BLM and are in control of both agencies.  The only way that this situation will be rectified is by action of Congress and I fear greatly that Congress does not have the will to take on the environmentalists and correct the problem.

Your letter has energized me to contact members of my congressional delegation and, as you suggest, to contact Dale M. Bosworth and express my views.

Kaylee M. Seagraves, New York

You’ve written another great article. And once again written about things I had no idea about, or my friends, whom I’ve forwarded this too. Keep up the great and hard work.

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