In Praise of Forest Service Fire Tactics

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The U.S. Forest Service is not the same Smokey Bear Forest Service of the past. Originally, the agency sought to preserve sustainable timber harvests by preventing all fires. Wildfire experts have shown that decades of fire suppression helped create forests unnaturally dense with fuel. Today, the Forest Service is much smarter with its fuel management choices.

 

In the wake of the 2012 Colorado fires, which destroyed hundreds of homes and will cost an estimated $450 million in damage, PERC President and Hoover Institution fellow Terry Anderson and PERC associate Sarah Anderson take a look at the motivating forces behind Forest Service fuel management policy. While most people think of fire suppression when considering wildlife management, Terry and Sarah focus their research on fire prevention strategies.

The duo's ongoing research at PERC looks at how the internal organizational changes and external political, economic, and ecological environments have translated into changes in the actions of Forest Service personnel. Despite the negative attention the Forest Service receives when a large fire rages, Terry and Sarah find that the Forest Service deserves some praise for their fire tactics.

Huggins is a research fellow and former director of outreach with PERC as well as a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Her association with PERC goes back several years, although she has recently embarked on a new venture as the manager of economic initiatives for the American Prairie Reserve. Huggins coauthored...
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