U.S. Forest Service Fire Policy

Fire policy has been the source of great debate in the U.S. since the earliest years of the twentieth century. A large portion of these early debates concerned the usage of controlled burns. Forest Service Chief Henry S. Graves was initially staunchly opposed to using the beneficial aspects of fire as a controlled tool. Graves, like many at the time, looked at all fires as destructive. He stated that burning forests to reduce fuel and hazard was "inconceivable" for his agency. The Great Fires of 1910 in Montana and Idaho further pushed a national debate over fire policy. Graves would later commission several fire studies, finding that controlled burns presented little damage to forest reproduction. Debates over fire, though, continued to be a polarizing issue among the general public. Conflicts over fire policy and public perception of forest fires would continue throughout the twentieth century.

Additional Resources

  • Pyne, Stephen J. "Flame and Fortune." Forest History Today, 1996. [PDF]
  • "Forest Roads or Forest Fires?" by C.J. Buck, Regional Forester, 1936.
  • Greeley, William B. "'Piute Forestry' or The Fallacy of Light Burning," 1920. Reprinted in Forest History Today, 1996. [PDF]
  • U.S. Wildfire Policy Links (external site)