Fire has been a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for thousands of years. Its presence is important for wildlife habitat, nutrient recycling, plant diversity, and overall landscape health. Fire managers at Grand Teton National Park seek to strike a balance between restoring and maintaining natural processes associated with fire, and protecting human life and property.
During the past century, fire was feared and suppressed. This led to a significant and unnatural buildup of live and dead trees, pine needles, shrubs and grasses. Not only does this buildup create risks for developments near wildland areas, it poses a threat to forest health. Fire naturally thins the forest, recycles nutrients into the soil, and stimulates new plant growth. Fire ecology research shows that many plant and animal species benefit from the rejuvenating effects of fire.
A comprehensive fire plan guides fire managers at Grand Teton National Park allowing for the restoration of fire regimes through a full range of management tools. Natural fire, prescribed fire, fire effects monitoring and hazard fuel reduction help restore natural processes while providing for firefighter and public safety. Fire managers work with wildlife biologists, vegetation ecologists, historic preservation specialists and interagency cooperators to achieve common goals of enhanced habitat and improved ecosystem functions.
In 2016, the Berry Fire burned over 20,000 acres, making it the largest fire in park history. To learn more about the fire and how park staff managed it, explore this story map and short video.