Year Published: 2016
Description: In 1988, fires burned 36% (about 800,000 acres) of Yellowstone National Park (YNP). At the time, the size and severity of these fires was greater than scientists and land managers were used to and they were attributed to excessive fuel loadings that were a result of past fire suppression. However, fire history and fire ecology studies, which were underway as the area’s high-elevation, lodge-pole pine (Pinus contorta)-dominated forests burned, showed that infrequent, large, stand-replacing fires were part of the Park’s natural history. Large, severe fires in this ecosystem occurred every 100 to 300 years and were linked with drought conditions and extreme fire weather, which suggested that fires were more dependent on climate than on fuels accumulated as a result of fire suppression. Since 1988, multiple fire studies have investigated the fire history, fire recovery, and future fire predictions for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and it was these and the experiences of YNP managers that served as the backdrop for the Northern Rockies Fire Science Network’s Fire History and Fire Ecology Field Tour of Yellowstone.