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Nature Natural Disasters

Fire Management in the American West

Forest Politics and the Rise of Megafires

by (author) Mark Hudson

University Press of Colorado
Initial publish date
Oct 2011
Natural Disasters, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price

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Most journalists and academics attribute the rise of wildfires in the western United States to the USDA Forest Service's successful fire-elimination policies of the twentieth century. However, in Fire Management in the American West, Mark Hudson argues that although a century of suppression did indeed increase the hazard of wildfire, the responsibility does not lie with the USFS alone. The roots are found in the Forest Service's relationships with other, more powerful elements of society--the timber industry in particular.

Drawing on correspondence both between and within the Forest Service and the major timber industry associations, newspaper articles, articles from industry outlets, and policy documents from the late 1800s through the present, Hudson shows how the US forest industry, under the constraint of profitability, pushed the USFS away from private industry regulation and toward fire exclusion, eventually changing national forest policy into little more than fire policy.

More recently, the USFS has attempted to move beyond the policy of complete fire suppression. Interviews with public land managers in the Pacific Northwest shed light on the sources of the agency's struggles as it attempts to change the way we understand and relate to fire in the West.

Fire Management in the American West will be of great interest to environmentalists, sociologists, fire managers, scientists, and academics and students in environmental history and forestry.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Mark Hudson is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and coordinator of the Global Political Economy Program at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.

Editorial Reviews

"...a significant case study by focusing on the role of the federal government and the forest industry in the adoption of the fire policy."
—Thomas G. Alexander, Oregon Historical Quarterly

"Fire Management in the American West makes a valuable contribution to the literature on wildland fire, the Forest Service, and public land management. I applaud Hudson for approaching wildfire from a different discipline, for it yields a more complex history and brings us closer to the truth."
—Lincoln Bramwell, U.S. Forest Service, Environmental History