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Wilderness Fire Workshop and Field Trips

Bob Marshall WildernessThe wilderness fire workshop and field trips provided an opportunity for past, current, and future wilderness fire champions of fire management to discuss challenges and successes. Line officers, fire managers, wilderness managers, researchers, and others interested in wilderness fire management celebrated the legacy of wilderness fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Northern Rockies by attending a 3-day backcountry field trip, half-day front country field trip, and/or a full-day workshop.

The Northern Rockies Fire Science Network partnered with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Managers and Spotted Bear Ranger District, Flathead National Forest to host these events. Thank you to the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute and High Plains Films for recording the workshop presentations.

Workshop presentations and short re-caps of the backcountry and frontcountry field trips can be viewed on this page in video and pdf formats. Workshop presentations follow the workshop agenda.

Workshop welcome
Fieldtrip reports
History & evolution of wilderness fire
Current wilderness fire management highlights
Wilderness fire science presentations
National perspective on wilderness and long-duration fire
Workshop discussion

Workshop welcome -

Workshop attendees were welcomed to the Spotted Bear Ranger District by Deb Mucklow, District Ranger, Spotted Bear RD and Vita Wright, Principal Investigator, Northern Rockies Fire Science Network. They delivered workshop objectives and an overview of the agenda, which are available via video (3:47 min). Seth Carbonari, District Fire Management Officer (FMO), and Rick Connell, Forest FMO, both from the Flathead NF also discussed objectives for the workshop, which are available via video (1:36 min). Discussion group objectives and desired outcomes for a national group of fire ecology students were also captured via video (0:54 min).

Fieldtrip report -

Backcountry field trip highlights from Seth Carbonari about the effects of multiple fire entries and building support for wilderness fire from the public and neighboring land owners (1:08 min).

Report on the frontcountry field trip to areas burned by the 2015 Bear Creek fire. The report from Matt Counts, Engine Forman, Spotted Bear RD, includes discussion about the logistics and challenges of managing the fire and communication and education during and after the fire, and the differences between managing fire and "letting it burn" (4:36 min).

History and evolution of wilderness fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex -

Dave Bunnell, retired USFS National Fire Use Program Manager (0-32:35 min), and George Weldon, retired Deputy Fire Director for the USFS Northern Region (32:36-42:12 min), share the history of wilderness fire management and what it took to be successful in a culture of fire suppression.

Current wilderness fire management highlights in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex -

Mike Munoz, Rocky Mountain District Ranger on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest shares his experiences with planning, wildfire and prescribed fire management, and interactions between multiple burns in and near the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (14:33 min).

Deb Mucklow, Spotted Bear District Ranger, shares her experiences and lesson learned in the co-management of fires across wilderness and non-wilderness boundaries, which includes extensive communication and coordination of resources and people (20:22 min).

Wilderness fire science presentations - 

Carol Miller, Research Ecologist, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, provides an overview of wilderness fire science: 1) What fire management directives are in wilderness and how they differ from multiple-use lands and 2) What wilderness fires have taught us (22:17 min).

Andrew Larson, Associate Professor of Forest Ecology, University of Montana, presents information learned about fire regimes, fire effects, and stand dynamics in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and how this information might inform restoration outside wilderness areas (17:34 min).

Phil Higuera, Associate Professor of Fire Ecology, University of Montana, discusses fire and climate relationships in the Northern Rockies: 1) How fire and climate relationships have changed over time and 2) What do future fire and climate relationships mean for future fires and fire management in the Northern Rockies (18:44 min).

Sean Parks, Research Ecologist, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, presents recent research on the effects of fire interactions, which suggests that wildland fire acts as nature's fuel treatment and can limit the occurrence and size of subsequent fires (13:14 min).

This information also available as a research brief, Effectiveness and longevity of wildland fire as a fuel treatment.

The national perspective on wilderness and long-duration fire - 

The presentation by Frankie Romero, USFS National Fire Use & Fuels Management Specialist, highlights how wilderness fire management has changed national fire management in philosophical, technological, and operational ways.

WO Fuels & Fire Ecology Logo

DiscussionGroupSpottedBearWildernessWorkshopWorkshop discussion (Discussion notes forthcoming, for more information, contact Vita Wright) -

1. Was managing wilderness fire harder in the 70s, 80s, 90s or is it harder now? What were the challenges back then, and how did we overcome them? 

2. What are the current challenges to managing wilderness fire? How are we overcoming them? What's working well?

3. How might future challenges be different than those of today? How can we build on current successes? How can we perpetuate the legacy and keep fire in wilderness ecosystems? 

4. How can research help? What questions do we most need scientists to address to support successful wilderness fire management?

For more information on wilderness fire, visit our past event page, 40 Years of Wilderness Fire in the Selway-Bitterroot & Frank Church-River of No Return.