USFS Reverses Policy, Fights Every Fire This Year -- But at What Cost?

"The [US Forest Service] abandons a long-held policy to let nature take its course on public wilderness lands. The long-term effects will be costly."

"On July 12, lightning sparked a forest fire in western Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex -- a place where wildfires are common this time of year. Usually, if they're small and don't threaten to get out of control, the U.S. Forest Service will let them burn. Small fires are good for the forest ecosystem, burning off dead timber and creating habitat for many woodland species; because of that, all U.S. agencies adopted a policy in 1995 to reintroduce fire on federal land.

So what happened last month was unusual: the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the 1.5 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and an additional 35 million acres of federally designated wilderness land nationwide, ordered a full-on attack of the fire by smokejumpers, bucket-bearing helicopters, and four lumbering slurry bombers that each dumped more than 2,000 gallons of red chemical fire retardant on an ecosystem that is otherwise treated as pristine."

Richard Manning reports for onearth magazine August 7, 2012.

SEE ALSO:

"Forest Service Gets More Aggressive on Small Fires" (AP)
 

Source: onearth, 08/09/2012