Abstract Detail



Plenary Address - Stephen Pyne

Pyne, Stephen [1].

Fire's American Century.

A map of forest fires included with the 1880 census shows a U.S. much like Brazil in recent years, with the difference that megafires in America were common and lethal.  State-sponsored conservation followed, part of a global project. 
The modern era of fire protection emerged out of the Great Fires of 1910.  The U.S. committed to removing landscape fire as fully as possible.  The U.S. Forest Service provided the matrix for a national program, forestry provided the research, and the New Deal and then the Cold War furnished the political muscle. 
A reaction boiled over during the 1960s that sought a change in policy, a more nuanced perspective on fire, and more collaborative institutions.  The National Park Service committed to fire restoration in 1968; the Forest Service, in 1978.  The prevailing policy was one of fire by prescription to promote deliberate burning and allow more natural fire.  Forest Service hegemony was replaced by interagency programs, and then by intergovernmental efforts, while a civil society for fire flourished.  The project stalled during the administrations of Reagan and Bush the Elder, and did not revive until after the 1994 season.  Meanwhile, the polarization of politics was mirrored in land use, as rural working landscapes went either toward stricter nature preserves or urban sprawl.  The Forest Service stumbled from being a paragon of public administration to the epitome of dysfunctional democracy; a national fire system has not yet found a fully adequate replacement.
In recent years another phase change is underway in policy, institutions, and practice.  In the American West managed wildfires have become the means by which to reinstate some fraction of good fire.  The National Cohesive Strategy offers a talk-shop forum for allowing the many players to coordinate strategies.  The Anthropocene is furnishing a context for additional sciences to include fire within their disciplines. 
Today, the strategies of all three eras are present.  Suppression flourishes where fire threatens cities and exurbs and is moving toward a more urban, all-hazard style.  Restoration is seeking ways to scale up fire's reinstatement, often combining with mechanical means such as thinning and masticating.  And managed wildfires have become the primary means for putting some reasonable regimen of fire on public lands.  Fire management strategies have come to resemble a game of rock-scissors-paper. The fundamental questions, however, remain cultural and political.


1 - Arizona State University, Tucson, AZ

Keywords:
none specified

Presentation Type: Special Presentations
Number:
Abstract ID:142
Candidate for Awards:None


Copyright © 2000-2019, Botanical Society of America. All rights reserved