Is this the future of America’s national forests, or will Congress wake up before it is too late?
This graph shows the inverse relationship between numbers and sizes of US wildfires over time. Note the greater number and smaller sizes of fires between the creation of Wilderness in 1964 and the beginning of the modern wildfire era in 1987 and 1988 (with Silver Complex and Yellowstone fires of those years), as compared with the smaller number and greater size of recent fires. One factor may be the shift in USFS policy from rapid suppression to “let it burn,” which has allowed for numerous smaller fires – previously extinguished individually -- to coalesce into larger fires and singular complexes.
(NOTE: These graphs contain data of variable quality from US Forest Service sources over time – however the general trends and annual variations shown are relatively accurate and can be interpreted with reasonable confidence. Data used in these graphs were assembled with the help of Douglas W. MacCleery, Senior Policy Analyst Forest Management, National Forest System, who obtained the most recent information from Khon Viengkham, Budget Coordinator, US Forest Service WO - Fire and Aviation Management, and Lenise Lago, US Forest Service Director, Program & Budget Analysis. Historical data was also provided by MacCleery, via Cheryl Oakes, Librarian/Archivist for the Forest History Society. Datasets were initially plotted and analyzed for accuracy and consistency by Forester/Biometrician Mike Dubrasich, Executive Director of the Western Institute for Study of the Environment (http://westinstenv.org/). Finished graphics supplied by E. T. Hinchcliffe, Art Director, TEK Printing.
Published data source: Schuster, Ervin G. Analysis of USDA Forest Service Fire-Related Expenditures 1970-1995. Research paper PSW-RP; 230. Berkeley, Calif.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, 1997. ii + 29 pp. illustrations, bibliography.)