Researchers, politicians, and land managers have described a "fire crisis" in the United States during the late 20th and early 21st centuries: Fuels have built up over decades of fire suppression and combined with an ever-expanding urban-wildland interface to result in economically and ecologically disastrous wildfires. Recent policy debate in the United States suggests that regulatory environmental policy at the federal level conflicts with the new priorities of fire management. This should be seen as very real and serious criticism of federal environmental policy. I suggest three possible analyses of this debate: first that the goals and principles of fire management inherently contradict the goals and principles of federal environmental policies; second, that some aspect of the implementation of environmental policies may constrain or contradict good fire management practices; and third, that no significant conflict exists either in policy or in implementation and that the policy dialogue described above is wholly or primarily a political construction. In a systematic comparison of the goals of federal wildland fire management and two major environmental regulatory policies, I find only very few and very minor conflicts. Where conflicts do exist, they are most commonly the result of insufficient scientific information or of paradoxes of priorities within fire management that will require significant flexibility in policy implementation. Finally, I present some preliminary evidence on the possibility of a conflict in policy implementation, a framework for evaluating the possible political construction of this policy debate, and some directions for future research.