I find that what people think, or don’t think, goes in wilderness, and why to be fascinating. If it’s trammeled you can act to untrammel, because that would be trammeling.. Oh, well.
Here’s a link and below is an excerpt.
These prescribed fires in wilderness areas wouldn’t have this
preparation. There are no plans to thin before the fires, Larkin said.
And firefighters would be using trails and natural features, such as
rock outcroppings, as fire breaks rather than scratching in fire lines.
While the Forest Service has used prescribed fire in wilderness
elsewhere around the country, this would be the first time it would be
done in Central Oregon.
The Cascade Lakes and Scott Mountain burns are planned for fall days
when temperatures are cooler than the prime fire season of summer but
forests are still dry enough to burn hot.
Along with helicopters, the plan says firefighters on the ground may use
flame-dripping torches to start the fires. The goal is to have high
severity fires, burning through the tops of the trees and killing many
of them. Firefighters would wait to start to the fires when the weather
forecast calls for impending snow or rain.
The fires would create a patchwork of burned and unburned woods, where
lightning-sparked blazes would not grow as large as they do now, said
Geoff Babb, a fire ecologist with the Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of
Land Management in Central Oregon.
Such a patchwork would mimic the forest seen in century-old,
black-and-white photos of the forests near Bend and Sisters. For much of
the 100 years since, the Forest Service and other agencies were quick to
snuff wildfires even in the wilderness, creating an overgrown forest
prone to big fires.
“I think if many of those were allowed to burn, they would have created
those patches that we are talking about,” Babb said.
The Forest Service plans go against the intent of the Wilderness Act of
1964, which set aside lands to be left in their natural condition, said
Karen Coulter, director of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project in
“We are strongly opposed,” she said.
She offered threes reasons for her opposition to prescribed fire in
* Prescribed burning is the type of human management not intended for
* Protecting communities and other assets outside of wilderness is best
done by treating the forests close to them, not the backcountry.
* The fires wouldn’t burn the same as natural, lightning-started fires.
“Prescribed burning in wilderness is de facto management of wilderness
and contradicts the intention of the Wilderness Act to set aside
untrammeled wild places for spiritual solace, recreation and wildlife,”
While he considers lightning fires to be a natural part of wilderness
forests, Kevin Proescholdt, conservation director of Wilderness Watch,
said he is skeptical about the idea of prescribed fires burning in
wilderness. Proescholdt lives in Minnesota but works for the
Montana-based nonprofit focused on wilderness conservation. His
criticisms of the idea were in line with Coulter’s.
“It basically is a form of manipulation of the wilderness ecosystem by
humans that we are not supposed to do under the Wilderness Act,”
Forest Service’s reasons
The Forest Service plans are legal, said Larkin, the Bend-Fort Rock
ranger, and he contends they are in the spirit of the Wilderness Act.
Larkin offers three reasons for doing the prescribed fires in the
* Returning the forest to a state where fire can plan a natural role and
lightning fires may be allowed to burn.
* Keeping wildfires that start in the wilderness in the wilderness.
* Increasing the safety for firefighters who respond to wildfires.
Babb and Larkin both emphasized that the burning would be done in a
relatively small piece of wilderness at a time, at most a couple hundred
acres, and the intention is not to burn the entire section outlined in
“This is really the start of a process that we envision taking 20 to 30
years to finish,” Larkin said.
Also, I wonder why some people would think it is OK in some places but not in others.. or maybe it’s just a function of who is watching what forests.
Here’s an interesting paper I found on the topic on wilderness.net:
Interpreting the Wilderness Act
Varying interpretations of the specific language of the Wilderness Act contributes to the philosophical
split over manager-ignited fire. The Forest Service often equates historic conditions with naturalness.
However, Ryan wonders what point in history was natural – the point in time when white people arrived
or the point in time when the area was designated as wilderness or some other point? Whether or not
human actions are natural or can be natural is also a major question, in light of the Act’s focus on
humans as visitors. This question is further complicated by the history of Native American burning in
While restoration of naturalness or natural conditions is often the stated goal of manger-ignited fires,
the Wilderness Act also re quires that wilderness be untrammeled. According to Worf untrammeled
means that “you don’t control it, you don’t net it. You let nature’s processes go wherever you can.”
There is clear agreement that past fire suppression represents trammeling of wilderness. According to
Arno a mixed-severity fire region is “absolutely incredible for biodiversity,” and taking it away is
trammeling, “a much greater trammeling than most other things you can do in wilderness.” Morton also
agrees that suppression of fire has been a form of trammeling.
Nickas and Morton agree that manager-ignited fire also constitutes a trammeling. Morton claims that
they are trammeling to restore naturalness. Eckert calls this the “double trammel” and considers it the
crux of the issue. Do we trammel wilderness again to reduce the effects of previous trammeling? For
Morton “natural and untrammeled are 180 degrees apart,” meaning that they are in conflict with one
another regarding the issue of fire.Another trammel is required, in Morton’s view, to make wilderness
Perhaps we need to hire more Forest Service philosophers to figure this out? We could get the “best available philosophy” ;)?