Read the entire article here. A little intro snip is below:
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.
This has been happening all across the West this summer, as the Forest Service throws its already-thin firefighting resources at blazes that in previous years would have been allowed to spread naturally and burn out on their own. The stated reason is cost: the Forest Service is so worried that the hot, dry conditions will cause one or more of those small fires to burn out of control — consuming not just acres of forest, but also the agency’s strapped budget — that it’s willing to pour money and resources into fighting blazes that threaten little and are usually considered healthy for the forests.