A Historical Perspective
Authority for fire management at the park originates with the Organic Act of 1916. The Organic Act established the National Park Service “to promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks,…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The 1978 “Redwood amendment” to the General Authorities Act of 1970 expands upon the provisions of the Organic Act, stating that, “…the protection, management, and administration of these [Park Service] areas shall be conducted in light of the high public value and integrity of the National Park System and shall not be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which these various areas have been established…”
As an NPS fire management program by design tiers to the respective park unit’s general and resource management objectives, fire management is an effective way of implementing the above legislation.
The 1994 fire season with its 34 fatalities triggered a series of reports under the rubric FIRE 21, including the 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy and Program Review. This review,the first comprehensive federal fire policy for the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, provided direction for fire management programs and activities, including such areas as safety, protection priorities, preparedness, suppression, wildland fire use, prevention, and wildland-urban interface roles and responsibilities. Following the escape of the Cerro Grande Prescribed Fire in May 2000, the 1995 Federal Fire Policy was evaluated and revised in the 2001 Review and Update of the 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (2001 Federal Fire Policy). The 2001 Federal Fire Policy finds no fundamental flaws in the 1995 document. It builds on the 1995 Federal Fire Policy, and addresses issues not fully covered in 1995, including rehabilitation and restoration of burned lands, the importance of sound science driving fire management activities, and the need for the full range of fire management activities to achieve ecosystem sustainability.