Despite clear legislative and policy direction to preserve natural conditions in wilderness, the maintenance of fire as a natural process has proven to be a significant challenge to federal land managers. As of 1998, only 88 of the 596 designated wilderness areas in the United States, excluding Alaska, had approved fire plans that allow some natural ignitions to burn; and even those areas with active natural fire programs continue to suppress many natural ignitions. As a result, none of the four federal wilderness management agencies have been able to restore fire to a level that even approaches pre-settlement fire regimes. Although prescribed fire has been utilized in some areas as a means to compensate for the lack of natural fire, it has been questioned as an appropriate wilderness management tool and is prohibited for most uses in Forest Service wilderness. The questions must be asked whether it is practical to expect restoration of natural fire regimes in wilderness and if they cannot be restored, what are the options and implications for wilderness resources and values?