Scorched Earth

scorched-earthHidden in this account of Yellowstone’s fires (all of them, not just the terribly destructive “burn” of 1988) is a pretty fair outline-history of our national park itself, from the time of Gen. Phil Sheridan in 1870. In addition, we have the story of our belatedly changing attitude toward forest fires; from a demand by conservationists for their total suppression to a more reasonable and practical solution—learning to live with some of Nature’s fires, rather than stopping them entirely. This forbearance can be possible if we use prescribed burning to reduce or eliminate the load of undergrowth—the excess fuel in our forests that kindle wildfires by invading the crowns of the trees. —Richard H. Dillon

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