In 1935, Elers Koch argued in a Journal of Forestry article that a minimum fire protection model should be implemented in the backcountry areas of national forests in Idaho, USA. As a USDA Forest Service Supervisor and Assistant Regional Forester, Koch had led many major fire-fighting campaigns in the region, beginning with the great 1910 fires of Idaho and Montana. He argued in his classic article for wilderness values, and against throwing millions of dollars into unsuccessful attempts to suppress backcountry fires. His article was accompanied by a response from Earl Loveridge, a proponent of full fire suppression, who was a leader of fire control from the Forest Service Washington Office. Loveridge soon after successfully proposed what was to become known as the 10 AM Policy-a universal fire suppression policy that lasted into the 1970s. While Koch’s classic article was not immediately successful in bringing about the backcountry 'let burn' fire policy he sought, it did contribute to the designation of the Selway-Bitterroot Primitive Area in 1936, which became a congressionally designated wilderness area in 1964 with the passing of the Wilderness Act. With that, the stage was set for a new era in Forest Service fire management, and in 1972 the White Cap Creek drainage in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness became the first exception to the 10 AM Policy, realizing Koch’s vision.
Koch, Elers. 2016. Introduction to the article by Elers Koch: The Passing of the Lolo Trail. Fire Ecology. 12(1): 1-12. doi: 10.4996/fireecology.1201001