Fire Management in the American West
Forest Politics and the Rise of Megafires
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University Press of Colorado
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This book has placed me in serious personal debt. First, I owe a great debt to Dr. Timothy Ingalsbee, who encouraged my interest in fire and whose passion for returning fire to the western woods was and remains relentless. His insights and perspectives on fire ecology and the “sociology of wildland fire” were a great inspiration, and he was extremely generous with his time, expertise, and resources...
A Note on Methods
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This book is based primarily on archival material from across the country. Materials from the University of Oregon in Eugene, the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, the Forest History Society in Durham, NC, Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, the National Archives in Washington, DC, the Federal Records Center in Seattle, WA, and the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul were...
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Humans have a tortured relationship with fire. We are, in the terminology of relationship pathologies, “control freaks.” We love fire if we feel we are in charge of it. Appropriately placed within the confines of the hearth, fire provides warmth and a sense of comfort, a shield both material and psychological against the encroachment of darkness. Fire in the right place and of the right scale is considered an...
2. The Social Dimensions of Wildfire
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On December 11, 1987, during its forty-second session, the United Nations— taking a controversial stance in opposition to earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and other “calamities of natural origin”—declared the 1990s to be the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. Included in the long list of natural disasters to be “reduced” by the international community over the course...
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As Americans, and westerners in particular, started to hear about the “forest health crisis” and fires began to take on more spectacular proportions, a dominant narrative emerged to explain how it all went wrong. The specific mix of culprits responsible for the increasingly unmanageable behavior of wildland fire varies and in some cases is hotly argued. Two hundred years of fossil fuel combustion...
4. Managing in the Wake of the Ax
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To address the unanswered questions posed at the end of Chapter 3 (namely, why was the Forest Service seemingly able to unilaterally and autonomously set fire policy, and why did it massage scientific research to support a policy of full suppression), we need to look at the political-economic context in which the USFS, and forestry1 more generally, was expected to operate in the United States. This inquiry is connected to...
5. Out of the Frying Pan
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The thirty-three-year struggle for federal regulation, which began in 1919 with Forest Service employees and allied conservationists working through the Society of American Foresters (SAF) under Gifford Pinchot’s leadership, ended in defeat. The USFS leadership’s role had swung from one side of the issue to the other, eventually letting the struggle drop. Pinchot, Henry Graves, and William...
6. The Weight of Past Weakness
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The idea that the state in a capitalist society or world system can be a contributor to a process of “greening” has been held out as one institutional plank in the larger fields comprised by ecological modernization theory (EMT) and as a pivot in the discourse of sustainable development. EMT advances the proposition that, in the era of ecological modernization, radical environmental change is independent...
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Th e landscape and ecology of the western United States, no less than smoke and ash, are products of fire. Humans have busily applied the torch and just as busily mobilized an arsenal of extinguishers. Our application and withdrawal of fire have been powerful elements in labor’s transformation of nature, and our choices about whether to burn or to douse have been shaped by the imperatives of production. Over the last...
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Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 5 b&w photos, 8 line drawings, 1 map, 5 tables
Publication Year: 2011