Evolving conceptions of wilderness: implications for the management of fire
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): G. Stankey; S. F. McCool
Coordinator(s): J. K. Brown; R. W. Mutch; C. W. Weatherspoon; R. H. Wakimoto
Publication Year: 1995

Cataloging Information

  • fire management
  • forest management
  • recreation
  • wilderness areas
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 47942
Tall Timbers Record Number: 23971
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: A13.88:INT-320
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


While the concept of wilderness in the American landscape may be traced to the mid-19th century, it was not until 1964 that formal, Congressional protection began. The resulting National Wilderness Preservation System, encompassing approximately 95 million acres, is not only much larger than originally envisioned but is embedded in a complex and everchanging social-cultural milieu. In the 19th century, wilderness was pretty but something that was not engaged directly. In the mid-20st century, wilderness was still thought to be pretty, but as a backdrop for primitive recreation. As we prepare to enter the 21st century, we now see wilderness as a sometimes ugly and dangerous place, a location where the power of natural processes dominates the landscape. Such changing definitions of wilderness hold important implications for management of fire, for the appropriateness of any management technique is determined by social definitions of the resource and how to protect it. Management of fire represents a class of complex environmental problems confronting postindustrial America where the needs of an administrative-technocratic state to solve the problem clash with the increased interest in public access to government decision making. An interactive approach to decision making, where fire managers work with the public to determine appropriate and effective management programs, ensures that important questions are asked and the necessary political support for implementation is achieved.

Stankey, G., and S. F. McCool. 1995. Evolving conceptions of wilderness: implications for the management of fire, in Brown, J. K., Mutch, R. W., Spoon, C. W., and Wakimoto, R. H., Proceedings: symposium on fire in wilderness and park management. Missoula, MT. USDA Forest Service, Internountain Research Station,Ogden, UT. p. 9-14,General Technical Report INT-GTR-320.