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When you think of wilderness…….What do you imagine?

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The Wildfire Climate Relationship in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness: Using Management Strategies to Return Wildfire to Wilderness Landscapes. When you think of wilderness…….What do you imagine?. Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. Area of Interest. IDAHO. The Wilderness ACT of 1964.

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The Wildfire Climate Relationship in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness:Using Management Strategies to Return Wildfire to Wilderness Landscapes


Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area

Area of Interest


The Wilderness ACT of 1964

the wilderness act of 1964
The Wilderness Act of 1964
  • Wilderness is to be “untrammeled” by man.
    • Who knew a reference to a horse could be so important to wilderness legislation.
  • Fire has and is successfully suppressed across wilderness landscapes.
  • Effectively, 99% of all wildfire is suppressed
wildfire suppression
Wildfire Suppression
  • Alters fire occurrence changing……
    • Natural plant communities
    • Succession
    • Vegetation mosaic
    • Accumulations of fuel
    • Wildlife habitat
    • Nutrient cycles
    • Energy flows
    • The interplay between fire, insects and disease
    • Ecosystem productivity, diversity and stability
    • Water quantity and quality
  • Direct Conflict to Wilderness Legislation!
understanding the variables
Understanding the Variables
  • Fire Extent, Frequency and Severity

Influenced By

    • Topography (elevation, aspect, slope and geology)
    • Vegetation types
    • Climate
climate and fire
Climate and Fire
  • Palmer Drought Severity Indices (PDSI)
  • Superposed Epoch Analysis (SEA)
  • Fire Atlases/National Interagency Fire Management Integrated Database (NIFMID)
so what do the pros say
So, What do the Pros Say?
  • Fire atlas data:
    • 70% of the SBW has burned
      • Between 1880 and 1996
      • 524 fires
    • 75% of this total is attributed to the 6 largest fire years.
      • 1889, 1910, 1919, 1929, 1934 &1988
        • WHY IS THIS?
local global
  • La Nina and El Nino Phases are important
  • Variance in precip. Occurs at 40 degrees N.
    • So………
wilderness and fire
Wilderness and Fire
  • “Wilderness fire, in its purest form, should be “wild” fire: unfettered by the constraints of humans. We have never prescribed a “let-it-blow” policy for tornadoes and hurricanes, a “let-it-erupt” policy for volcanoes or a “let-it-grind” policy for glaciers. Why, then, did we need a “let-it-burn” policy for fires.”-Agee
    • Fire is a natural disturbance that humans can sometimes manipulate.
    • Social stigmas, politics and economics all influence the human response to wildfire.
    • Fire suppression has previously been viewed as a way to protect forest resources for future harvest.
fire the future
Fire & The Future
  • A natural disturbance
  • Wilderness… and its future ecological health
  • Scientific Knowledge and Current Conditions
    • Provide land managers with tools for re-establishment of fire in wilderness ecosystems…..WFU’s and AMR
associated costs benefits
Associated Costs & Benefits
  • Standard Suppression $150-250/Acres
  • Fuels Treatment $1200/acre at an estimated 90-200 million acres
  • WFU’s 43$/Acre
  • Natural interaction exists between climate and wildfire in the SBW
  • Larger scales of interest also are important to consider
  • Suppression has altered wildfire frequency, extent and severity normally influenced by climate, topography and vegetation