Jack D. Cohen
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Policy & Law
Fire & Wilderness
Management Approaches

NRFSN number: 12420
FRAMES RCS Number: 16158
Record updated: December 6, 2017

Wildland fire is a significant component of nearly all North American ecosystems. High intensity, stand-replacement fires are normal in certain ecosystems, especially in the northern Rocky Mountains. Wilderness fire managers are obligated to let fire operate as a natural influence to the extent that this is possible. Where wilderness areas incorporate stand-replacement-type fire ecosystems, ecologically significant prescribed natural fires must reach stand-replacement fire intensities. However, because weather forecasting capabilities are limited, fire managers are unable to predict whether prescribed natural fires will escape prescribed boundaries. Moreover, the effectiveness of suppression actions decreases as wilderness fires increase in size. Thus, fire managers face the dilemma of managing for natural fire influences on ecosystems, with the consequence of increasing the potential for escaped fire situations.


Cohen, Jack D. 1991. Some thoughts on prescribed natural fires. In: Nodvin, Stephen C.; Waldrop, Thomas A., eds. Fire and the environment: ecological and cultural perspectives. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-GTR-69. Asheville, NC: USDA Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. p. 381-383.

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