Policy Statements » Statements:

Forest Fire Management

Considerable public and media attention has focused on the causes and consequences of recent forest fires on public lands in the western United States. These fires caused significant harm and upheaval in some communities and, in some of these areas, increased fire intensity was linked to unnatural fuel accumulations. Because past land use management and policies have contributed to these conditions, many have called for prescribed fires and mechanical thinning programs aimed at reducing forest fuels. Recently, the Administration and some Congressional leaders have offered plans to address this situation.

Action is indeed needed in some western forests, but it is critical that any plan enacted is consistent with current scientific understandings. Sustainable forest management can be achieved only when the best scientific information is incorporated into management strategies. The following principles are central to fire management on western landscapes. Attention to them will greatly enhance the likelihood that efforts to address wildfire in western forests will achieve their objectives.

Although this is an urgent challenge in some areas, the challenge will not be met by quick fixes or by strategies that are not based on the best science. Restoration efforts must be prioritized, and areas in which human life or property are at a great risk should be our highest priority. Much will be learned from these efforts that can then be applied to more remote areas. As the nation's largest professional organization of ecologists, we stand ready to assist in both science and practice.

Adopted by the Governing Board of the Ecological Society of America, April 2003
The Ecological Society of America is the country's primary professional organization of ecologists, representing over 9,700 scientists in the United States and around the world. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has diligently pursued the promotion of the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. For more information about the Society and its activities, visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.