Fire Management Plan

Empire Fire along Glacier Point burning naturally through vegetation

Overview (2004, 2009, and 2017 plans)


The Yosemite 2004 Fire Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement guides the implementation of a complex fire management program. The program includes wildland fire suppression, wildland fire used to achieve natural and cultural resource benefits, fire prevention, prescribed fire, fire ecology research, and the use of mechanical methods to reduce and thin vegetation in and around communities.

One goal of the program is to reduce the threat of wildland fire to public safety, to the park's wildland urban interface communities, and to its natural and cultural resources. Another management goal is to return the influence of natural fire to park ecosystems so they are restored to as natural a condition as possible. 


The 2004 Fire Management Plan /Environmental Impact Statement aims to reduce risk to park wildland urban interface communities within six to eight years, and restore park ecosystems within 15 to 20 years. Some of the work will be done to reduce the risk of unwanted wildland fire in and adjacent to wildland urban interface communities will involve mechanical methods. The primary methods to reduce wildland fire risk and to restore park ecosystems, however, will be prescribed and wildland fire.

This revision of the Yosemite Fire Management Plan was initiated in 1999 because of changes to National Park Service (NPS) and Federal fire management policy and to bring about needed refinements to the program, as indicated by research and monitoring that has been ongoing since the earliest days of fire program implementation.

Fire management planning and programs have been ongoing in Yosemite since 1970, when NPS fire management policy was changed to allow natural processes to occur when possible. The NPS went from suppressing all fires to letting some fires burn if they would contribute to accomplishing resource management objectives without threatening developed or populated areas or cultural sites. Refinements have been made to the Yosemite fire management program, and will continue to be made as knowledge of fire ecology and fire behavior increases. The previous revision to the FMP was completed in 1990.

Fire management is an integral part of managing the park's natural and cultrual resources. The Yosemite Fire Management Plan assists in achieving land management objectives that are defined in the 1980 General Management Plan, the 1993 Resources Management Plan, and the 1997 Vegetation Management Plan for Yosemite National Park. All major forest and chaparral communities in Yosemite evolved under the influences of periodic fires, and many plants have developed adaptations to a regime of frequently occurring fires. Some plants are even dependent upon fire for successful reproduction. Unfortunately, decades of fire suppression have altered park vegetation. The effect of this has been to alter wildlife habitat as well. The restoration of fire to its natural role in park ecosystems is one of the highest natural resource management priorities for Yosemite.

The purpose of the Final Fire Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement was to present and analyze alternatives for carrying out the fire management program in Yosemite. It also presented and analyzed effects that would occur as a result of implementing these alternatives in different areas of the park. The specific purposes of the Yosemite Fire Management Plan were to:

  • Provide a plan that is consistent with National Park Service wildland fire management policy and adheres to guiding principles from the 2001 Federal Fire Policy.

  • Identify and implement methods to restore and maintain park ecosystems and ecosystem processes that allow fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem, both as wildland fire and prescribed fire.

  • Reduce the risk of fire to cultural resources (i.e. historic buildings, pictographs) through fuels reduction, prescribed burning, or fire suppression to prevent fires from damaging cultural resources. Fire will also be used as a tool to manage cultural landscapes.

  • Reduce the risk of catastrophic fire, including near the wildland/urban interface (communities, government and commercial buildings, and other developed areas), while continuing to reverse the adverse effects from past fire suppression and prevention activities.

  • Execute a fire management program that provides a safe environment for firefighters and the public, including safe operations and fire management related facilities (helibases, fire camps, fire stations).

A final Fire Management Plan was completed and a Record of Decision signed in 2004. Since that time, an operational plan was developed in 2009 that builds off of this 2004 plan. Additionally, in 2017, an amendment to this original plan was completed to allow fire managers to apply the flexibility provided in the current federal guidance.

Last updated: August 17, 2021

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