Managers of designated wilderness or conservation areas, especially those that are fire-dependent, often face a major dilemma. It is essential that fire perform its natural role of rejuvenating the ecosystem. Standards of environmental regulation, stewardship responsibilities and social liability preclude free-ranging wildfires and severely constrain even the most professionally developed prescribed fire program, On one hand, there is an ecological and social imperative to prescribed fire; on the other, the synergism of an array of regulatory constraints reduces the opportunities to use prescribed fire. Some of the more complex and restrictive regulations deal with water pollution, air pollution, smoke management, wetlands, cultural resources, wilderness areas, endangered species and state coastal zone management areas. These regulations all become more: complex as the wildland-urban interface increases and as the number of habitat classifications increase. Fire-based management decisions must be developed to form a balance between these environmental regulations and our resource mandates to manage fire-dependent habitats. This paper discusses this conflict/dilemma and the resultant threats to the ecosystem health and function of two major wetland types: the Okefenokee and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuges.