Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Society's view of forests and what they produce changed considerably during the latter part of the 20th century. Prior to the 1970s, society believed that forests in the western United States provided a seemingly infinite supply of natural resources and economic prosperity. The public trusted experts to make forest management decisions dedicated to resource extraction and controlling nature (Bengston 1994). As a result, forest management objectives emphasized timber production, capital-intensive forest operations, and fire suppression (Bengston 1994, Covington and Moore 1994, Hessburg et al. 2005). During and after 1970, society's view toward forests began to shift toward sustainable development, harmony with nature, an awareness of finite natural resources, and public involvement in decisionmaking (Bengston 1994). As a result, forest management objectives evolved to incorporate these different values. Instead of only producing wood, forest management objectives shifted to favor ecosystem services such as fresh water, food, wood products, carbon sequestration, soil protection, and wildlife habitat. Management objectives also changed their focus to enhance social services that include recreation, ecotourism, and education along with support services such as nutrient cycling and soil development (USDA 2014).