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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Fire Management on Public Lands

  1. Fire is a natural, integral, and valuable component of many ecosystems. Fire management must be a part of the management of public lands. Areas managed for their natural values often benefit from recurring wildfires and may be harmed by a policy of fire suppression. Long-term suppression of small wildfires may build up conditions making occasional catastrophic conflagrations inevitable.
  2. Every fire should be monitored. Naturally occurring fires should be allowed to burn in areas where periodic burns are considered beneficial and where they can be expected to burn out before becoming catastrophic. Human-caused fires in such areas should be allowed to burn or be controlled on a case-by-case basis.
  3. In areas where fire would pose an unreasonable threat to property, human life or important biological communities, efforts should be made to reduce dangerous fuel accumulations through a program of planned ignitions. New human developments should be discouraged in areas of high fire risk.
  4. When fires do occur that pose an unacceptable threat to property or human life, prompt efforts should be undertaken of fire control.
  5. In areas included in or proposed for the National Wilderness Preservation System, fires should be managed primarily by the forces of nature. Minimal exceptions to this provision may occur where these areas contain ecosystems altered by previous fire suppression, or where they are too small or too close to human habitation to permit the ideal of natural fire regimes. Limited planned ignitions should be a management option only in those areas where there are dangerous fuel accumulations, with a resultant threat of catastrophic fires, or where they are needed to restore the natural ecosystem.
  6. Land managers should prepare comprehensive fire management plans. These plans should consider the role of natural fire, balancing the ecological benefits of wildfire against its potential threats to natural resources, to watersheds, and to significant scenic and recreational values of wildlands.
  7. Methods used to control or prevent fires are often more damaging to the land than fire. Fire control plans must implement minimum-impact fire suppression techniques appropriate to the specific area.
  8. Steps should be taken to rehabilitate damage caused by fighting fires. Land managers should rely on natural revegetation in parks, designated or proposed wilderness areas, and other protected lands. Where artificial revegetation is needed, a mixture of appropriate native species suited to the site should be used.
  9. The occurrence of a fire does not justify salvage logging or road building in areas that are otherwise inappropriate for timber harvesting. Salvage logging is not permitted in designated wilderness areas or National Park System units.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, March 17-19, 1989


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