The scientific value of fire in wilderness

Wilderness areas are important natural laboratories for scientists and managers working to understand fire. In the last half-century, shifts in the culture and policy of land management agencies have facilitated the management practice of letting some naturally ignited fires burn, allowing fire to fulfill its ecological role and increasing the extent of fire-related research opportunities. This presentation will highlight the major scientific contributions facilitated by fire in wilderness, including self-limitation of fire, the effects of active fire regimes on forest and aquatic systems, barriers and potential solutions to wilderness fire management, and the effect of fire on wilderness recreation and visitor experiences. It will also highlight how future wilderness fire science might address knowledge gaps, including the past and potential role of Indigenous and prescribed burning, the effects of changing climate and fire regimes on ecosystem processes, and how to overcome barriers to wilderness fire management.