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Publication Information

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Title: Learning from wilderness: The social dimension of fire management

Author: Black, Anne E.;

Date: 2009

Source: International Journal of Wilderness. 15(1): 34-36.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: In 2008, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) began piloting a "new" concept in fire management: managing "fire as fire" on the landscape; no more black-and-white distinctions between "good" fire and "bad" fire. Instead, under the new direction, the USFS manages the fire based on what the land, the long-term objectives, the land management plan, the social-political situation, and the weather suggest. For example, the USFS staff may attack a flank of the fire that has a high probability of moving aggressively into a housing subdivision, but may only monitor the flank of a fire moving through public lands (wilderness or nonwilderness) that are ecologically in need of a fire. Interestingly, this intuitively straightforward way to manage fire represents a profound shift in organizational structure and culture, with implications for how to receive and allocate budgets that manage natural ignitions, how to coordinate and communicate with internal and external partners, how to understand and predict fire behavior, and how to weigh competing priorities and objectives in the decision-making process. Success hinges on the ability of a manager to safely, effectively, and efficiently manage a dynamic, high-stakes fire situation. The shift takes the fire manager out of the safe terrain of heroic figure doing battle with nature's forces to the trickier territory of shepherding a complex system.

Keywords: wilderness, fire management

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Black, Anne E. 2009. Learning from wilderness: The social dimension of fire management. International Journal of Wilderness. 15(1): 34-36.


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